Tyler Lockett can call home and inform his dad that the past 2 hours and 18 minutes of practice were exhausting, and he doesn't need to explain a whole lot more.
"I mean, I can almost walk through station by station what they will do in those 2 hours and 18 minutes," said Kevin Lockett, father of the Kansas State wide receiver. "It’s just all the same. Same schedule in terms of what they do Monday through Friday. Same schedule on game day, so it’s almost like I’m reliving the moments through Tyler."
It's "all the same" as it was almost 20 years ago, when Kevin Lockett was a receiver for Kansas State under coach Bill Snyder, as the Wildcats won 37 games in four seasons and became the first K-State team ever to reach four consecutive bowl games. This year, Tyler Lockett has broken through with a strong sophomore season after a kidney injury ended a promising freshman campaign. He's caught 40 passes for 652 yards and four touchdowns, adding a pair of kick returns for scores as well.
"This year, I’ve seen him grow into a much better wide receiver. I think as a freshman he made a lot of good plays based on his athletic ability and his speed, and I think this year he became a much more complete player," Kevin Lockett said. "He ran better routes, he got off bump-and-run coverage better, and was still able to keep his return skills intact."
Summer one-on-one workouts between the aspiring NFL receiver and former NFL receiver helped spur that development, but many of the principles Kevin Lockett passed down to his son came from a familiar source.
"We had great high school systems and coaches, but a lot of it comes from my understanding of Coach Snyder’s system and the way he taught us to approach the game 20 years ago," Kevin Lockett said. "The mental game. It’s not about just learning your position, it’s about learning what all 11 are doing on the field, understanding what the defense is trying to do to you. And that helped prepare me for my professional career, and I’m able to transfer all of that to Tyler hopefully at a younger age than I learned it so that he can be more successful on his own."
The system back then -- a few tweaks and additions (hello, bubble screens!) aside -- is a near-carbon copy of the one in which Tyler Lockett plays in today, so father-son film sessions are particularly productive.
"I’m able to watch tape with him and understand and direct him on what he should be doing based on what play is called, and out on the field, a lot of technique stuff," Kevin Lockett said. "How to beat bump-and-run coverage, how to run routes against certain coverages, how to get in and out of breaks. I think he’s got all the physical tools, but what I try to instill in him is more of the mental tools of how to approach the game and how to out-think your opponent."
Kansas State has been doing a whole lot of that under Snyder this season, but that's nothing new. As he's aged, Snyder hasn't changed much, but some change is inevitable as your circumstances change, too.
"I’ve gotten to know him a lot better since I played there and I think he’s a little more relaxed -- and I think he’s always enjoyed coaching and leading young men, but I think he truly enjoys it now," Kevin Lockett said. "He actually cracks jokes now. He was pretty straight-line 20 years ago, but that’s understandable. I think he was trying to build something 20 years ago, and he’s been successful building something and so now that he’s come back for this second go, I think he’s got experience and history behind him and he can now enjoy and live in the moment more than he’d be able to the first time."
As Big 12 offenses have gotten more pass-happy, Snyder has stuck to run-heavy schemes that were long ago shed by teams like Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State. K-State isn't running the wishbone, but the Wildcats' quarterback running game gave defenses enough trouble to send Tyler Lockett's quarterback, Collin Klein, to New York as a Heisman finalist.
"A lot of things they do well don’t show up in statistics. How hard they hit you. How well they line up, how they’re always in the right position. How they play with maximum effort," Kevin Lockett said. "That doesn’t show up in statistics with yardage or turnovers or things like that, but that kind of game really is now taking a toll on opponents in terms of how aggressive they play the game."
The game around Snyder has changed. The faces have changed, even though in the Locketts' case, the name on the back of the jersey hasn't. But the same principles and schemes are taught and executed at K-State, and helped the Wildcats regain their position atop the Big 12.
"He’s always been a coach who knows some kids will have better games than others, better abilities than others," Kevin Lockett said of Snyder, "but if you do things the right way with maximum effort, he’ll be pleased with you as a player."