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Aaron Lockett 

WILDCAT LEGENDS: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?!

Article by Tyler Jackson

Photography by Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics

Wildcat Legends: Where are they now?!

Aaron Lockett

Wide Receiver, 1997-2001

  • 2000 2nd Team All-American
  • Four-Time All-Big 12 Conference
  • 2000 NCAA Punt Return Average & Touchdown Leader
  • 2002 NFL Draft Pick: Round 7, Pick 254 / Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I’m chatting with the one and only Wildcat Legend, Aaron Lockett. You were the second person of the famous Lockett family to play at K-State. To start off, what does Kansas State mean to the Lockett family? 

You know what, it means everything. It’s where we got an education. It's where we changed from childhood to our adulthood. It's where we learned how to play football from a national perspective and gain exposure and experience. It's where I met many of my lifelong friends. It's where I had my first roommate ever. Kansas State has been the first of many successful milestones in my career. 

Coming to K-State after your brother Kevin, what was your path as an individual of coming to Kansas State? 

You know, ironically, I was dead set on going to Tennessee or Nebraska. I went to Nebraska's football camp. We had a receiver that went to Tennessee from my high school, and Philip Fulmer (former Tennessee head coach) came to watch me play. Peyton (Manning) was still there. But, when it all came down to it, everything in life is about relationships. So, the way that Coach Snyder himself, along with his support staff, treated my brother and my family, when we came up on visits, they always asked the right questions. That felt genuine and honest. It became a no-brainer as that decision became closer for me. 

Did you get offers from Nebraska and Tennessee? How many schools were interested in you? 

I was one of those guys that got boxes and boxes of letters. Honestly, it’s different nowadays, right? There are two signing periods. I actually committed early to Kansas State, early into my senior year. With the offers on the table, I didn't pay attention to 'em. I canceled all my visits. I was going to Nebraska, I was going to Tennessee, I was going to University of Tulsa. I was going to do the carousel to kind of see what college was about. But, then I realized that an opportunity is in your hand. You've got to take advantage of it. So, I didn't want others to be able to sign before me, therefore lose a scholarship. So, I committed early and just shut everybody else down. 

So you arrived in Manhattan in 1997? How long were you here?

1997 to 2001. I stayed five years. I redshirted my freshman year in ‘97. That was the Fiesta Bowl year. Then I played that magical ’98 season, and that was my redshirt freshman year. Then we finished with the Insight.com Bowl against Syracuse in 2001. 

As a freshman - a redshirt freshman - what was it like being a part of that ‘98 team? 

Yeah, it was awesome. But, it was all I knew because we all came in together. I was part of that same recruiting class with Darnell McDonald and Jeff Kelly and Michael Bishop. We all came to college together. They just came out of JuCo, and I came out of high school. But, we all stepped foot at Kansas State at the same time. So, we grew collectively around the K-State program together. I just didn't play that first year, they played. We rolled into their second year, and it was my first year playing. We were very familiar with each other as we all arrived the summer of ‘97 together. 

What was it like growing up with the likes of Michael Bishops and Darnell McDonald and Jeff Kelly?

It was very similar to my high school. Coming from Booker T. Washington, a very prominent high school in Tulsa, Oklahoma, we produced a lot of Division 1 & NFL talent. So, I've been surrounded around talent for most of my life, very fortunate. Getting to Kansas State, I've been around dual threat quarterbacks. I've been around guys that are just better than what they should be at that time and age. College to me felt just like that. Coming into it, realizing their juniors and seniors didn't really affect me other than they were bigger and faster and stronger, but, ultimately competitive. And they all came from different environments. With Bishop coming from Blynn (Junior College) and winning a national JUCO championship. You've got Jeff Kelly and Darnell coming from different areas, it was just awesome. Plus, you had those guys that were already there. My recruiting class was stacked. Ben Lieber came with me. Jon McGraw came with me. Monte Beisel came with me. Guys that ended up playing pro for a long time. We had a very, very athletic, talented draft class. 

What a time to be at Kansas State!

It was electric. The Big 12 formed the year when we came in. So 1996, Kevin's last year was the first year of the Big 12. But we came in fresh on the scene. 25, I think 25 recruits, 20 of 'em probably JUCO guys. I mean, we came in with a bang. That Syracuse game (1997 Fiesta Bowl) put Kansas State on the map for a long time. That was that Donovan McNabb game where Swift showed up, and Darnell and Bishop. And I think we just carried that torch for the next couple of years. And even now to a decade plus. 

New Year's Eve ’97, baby! 

There you go. That's the one, right? That was electric. 

I just realized as you were talking, you never did play at K-State with Kevin, did you? 

I did not. Nope. He graduated in ‘90 and came in a year after that. For 10 years, we backdoored it back-to-back. From 1992 to 2001, there was a Lockett on the K-State football team. 

And then Tyler came in 2011. 

Yep. Tyler came in 2011. He played 11, 12, 13, 14, drafted in 2015. There was also the time frame that we brought in Prince. Right. So there was a little bit of a disconnect between K-State without Snyder. But under Snyder, here comes Tyler. 

If you could put it in just a few words, what was the biggest highlight of playing Kansas State Football for you? 

The biggest highlight for me, honestly, isn’t one on the field, it’s one in the stands. It was just seeing the pure joy of my parents. Because I've always been the little brother, right? I've always been extremely athletic, but you never know how far that can go. I stand here 5 feet 8 inches at most. 5 feet, 7 and a half by scouts. 

How tall is Kevin? 

Kevin's six foot. Right? So, you just don't see a lot of players my size play at a high level in college, especially at that time. Let alone - get opportunity to get drafted and play pro. So, just to see the joy of my parents' faces, to see me kind of create my own legacy within the legacy that Kevin had created at Kansas State. Then from there, talk about on the field, it was probably the Nebraska game in 1998. I'll never forget it. I had six (catches) for 117 (yards). Bishop threw me a stop and go, and it was just magical. It was just one of those moments where you catch a 60-yard bomb from your quarterback. The crowd is erupting, and you go on to upset a team that nobody thought you could beat. 

You had to have been feeling absolutely on top of the world that game. 

Yeah. That was just one of those games where I realized we had made it - even as a redshirt freshman. Like, we had arrived on college football. What we were doing was special. I think we were averaging 50 points a game. I mean, we were the Alabama of this last decade. 

Dude, for sure. 

We were a team that nobody wanted to play. 73 to 7, 65 to 6. We were that team to where, come third quarter, our starters were out. Everybody was getting a chance to play. And we were looking on to next week. 

How awful was that trip back from St. Louis? 

<laugh>. 

It always goes back to 98, Aaron. It always goes back to 98. 

Man. It, it always goes back to 98. 

You know, it's funny. We were in the huddle, and it was overtime, and I know we needed to score, and they ran a reverse with me. I told the guys, “I'm gonna score. We're gonna go play for a national title” - and I got stonewalled on the five-yard line or so. I came back to the huddle, and they said, “what happened?” I was like, “Sh*t, he hit me hard!” <laugh> 

But, it was just…

Overtime. Then double overtime. We just got caught off guard. We were up. I’m not sure if we got complacent. Other than that, they were talented. We just made the wrong mistakes at the wrong time. We let Kansas State down. We were prime for a national title that year. That was our year. That was it. That was the one that Kansas State remembers. I'm not sure there's ever been a better Kansas State team. 

No way. I mean, just period. Best ever.

That is the one. That team right there. I think we could compete and beat any other Kansas State team across the board. I would put money on that team beating any team in the 21st century. 

That team was magical. 

If you ever just stop and look at what we really produced, we had 10 guys that ran a 4.3 (40 yard dash) or better. We had speed, we had size, we had coaching. Dual threat quarterback. Deep threat, short threat. We had everything. 

Who was your wide receiver's coach that year? 

Greg Peterson. Greg Peterson was my coach all the way throughout. Michael Smith was my punt return coach, and special team's coach all the way throughout. 

I wish Michael Smith would come back home.

<laugh>. Coach Smith – Smitty - is a player's coach, and players respond to him. 

When I talked to Ell Roberson (October 2023 Wildcat Legend), the conversation constantly went back to Coach Smith.

Yeah. Smitty was, as you mentioned, a cornerstone. I think he gets lost in the shuffle because he's moved around, but he was really good at what he did. And that time and point, he was there when I was there. He was there on the tail end of my brother's career. He was there when Sproles came through. I mean, he's produced some high-level talent that went on to play for a long time. 

He was even there when Tyler was there! 

Yep, he absolutely was. 

Where's he at now? 

He’s at South Alabama. He's a wide receiver coach for South Alabama. 

Oh, okay! Man, they walked into Boone Pickens Stadium (Oklahoma State) this year and got a win! They walked in and got it 33-7

They've got a receiver that was number five in the nation. I mean, he's continually producing talent. 

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't ask. 

Mm-Hmm.  

The Troy Polamalu hit. 

<laugh>, you know. That hit - pi*sed me off. I came into my senior year, the number one punt returner in the nation. I was a Preseason All-American. I had already had a good return that game. I thought it was intentional. I thought it was dirty. I thought it was wrong. I had never been hit like that before. Then obviously, it was Troy himself. I met him later on in life. Really nice guy. Don't think he thought anything of it other than he's being extremely aggressive. But, it ticked me off. It let me know that you've always got to protect yourself. It also justified that I was the best of the best at that point in time. 

I just looked it up on Bleacher Report. They have it ranked as the eighth-dirtiest shot in the history of college football! <laugh> 

<laugh> Well, it's the reason they put the Halo rule in after that. 

Was that really? 

Mm-Hmm. 

It makes sense. I remember watching it on TV when I was in high school, and it was a big topic for a while. I mean, and we’re still talking about it 22, 23 years later.

You know what's ironic about that? The head coach for USC was Pete Carroll. When Pete drafted Tyler, me and my dad were like, “You gotta be kidding me?” <laugh> 

When you got hit like that, did it hurt? 

Yes, it hurt. I mean obviously, you naturally react and get up and think nothing of it. But - I couldn't get up. He hit my hand, and my hand hit the face mask, and that hit my jaw. I just wasn't prepared. It was literally like a car crash when your body ejects, and I laid on the ground. 

Here's the funniest story that nobody knows. I'm laying on the ground, and I'm realizing what happened and I’m like, “Man, that hurt. Whoa, wait a minute.” And then I hear a voice. It’s my roommate, Milton Proctor, a safety out of St. Louis. And he was like, “Lock. Lock. You gotta get up, man. We're on national TV. You gotta get up!” <laugh>. 

I slowly, slowly got up and then I was just infuriated. I was just upset. But he was like, “Man, we're on national tv!” <laugh> It was the first game of the year. It was our first game of my senior year. And he was like, “You gotta get up man. You just gotta get up. <laugh> Literally would never forget that. 

That's so great! <laugh> 

So once you conclude your career at Kansas State, and you then get drafted by the Buccaneers. 

Yep. I got drafted by John Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I went and spent training camp there and was released, then signed with the 49ers the next week or two. Then, I spent the next two years there. I didn't play a lot at all really. When I was in San Fran, I was with T.O. (Terrell Owens) and J.J. Stokes, and I found out everybody was 6 foot 3 inches in the NFL at that time and point. So, I stayed there for my first year and a half. Then that next year, I went to Canada because I needed some playing time and experience. I ended up loving Canada.

Who did you play for? 

The B.C. Lions. I played for Ottawa, Ontario, at first. I ended up tearing my quad. Once I had to get released from there once my quad was healthy, I signed with British Columbia. And then I played the next three years with them. 

I bet that was amazing. 

It was amazing. I ended up leading the league as a returner my second year in Canada. My first year, we went to the Grey Cup, which was equivalent to the Super Bowl. Then I played my third year. After that, it was a decision, ‘where do you want to continue playing?’ I was 27 years old. I probably wasn't going back to the NFL without a big signing bonus. So, I was like, ‘Do you want to continue to play or do you want to go, you know, find out?’ From there, I jumped into oil and gas. Then, over the last two and a half to three years, I've become an NFL agent. 

I'm the founder of Next Page Sports (NPS). We've got an amazing team and represent players going through the draft into their professional ranks. It’s a full-service agency. We do marketing and contract negotiations, and we represent coaches. Aliya (Carter) is one of our clients. Gabby Gregory's a client. Ayoka Lee's a client. Sterling's (Lockett) a client. I took four of those for NIL. Then, we’ve got other clients. We've got a client at Rutgers. We've got one at the University of Tulsa. I've got one at UNLV. I've got two guys going through the draft this year. One from Ohio State, one from Oregon State. I represent Tyler. We’ve got a coach at Missouri, one at Tennessee. So yeah, we're a full-service agency. 

That's amazing, dude. Good for you. 

Mm-Hmm. Thank you! 

I know Kevin was a finance graduate, were you as well?

No, I was in marketing. I was a marketing international business major, and had a minor in E-Comm. Then later when I started working, I went and got my accounting degree. So, I do have an accounting background. 

That’s really fascinating. How did you get into being a sports agent? 

I found out indirectly through Tyler that what I was doing was what sports agents do, right? I was communicating with Tyler; I was giving him pointers. I was being basically that soundboard talking through his career. ‘What does it look like for opportunities in marketing? What about post-career?’ That's what agents do. I didn't realize that was a job. To me, it was just my nephew. Right? Then I found myself always being asked questions: ‘Hey, all three of you Locketts made it to the NFL. Could you give my son some pointers? Could you help us out here?’ From there I was like, ‘let me open up an agency.’ So, it was literally covid. I was sitting like everybody else in their home. <laugh> I said, ‘I'm going to open up an agency!’ So I got certified. I now have my NBA license. I have my WNBA license. I have my FIBA license, which is international basketball. And my NFL license. 

Let's go! 

Once I acquired all my licenses, I started an LLC, opened my company, and then started to get resources around me. We have a social media strategist, we have client services, we have a lawyer. We have another agent within the agency, which is Kylie Cook. Kylie is Coach Smitty’s daughter. So, I try to keep it close to home. She’s on the website (nextpagesports.com) when you go there. One of my good friends that I played with in Canada runs our coaching division. I have marketing partners. We do mental health and wellness, which makes us more like a modern agency. So, I’m just trying to figure out all the things that can help today's athletes become successful. Not just on the field, but also off the field in their daily activities. 

Dude, that's incredible! Good for you!

It’s going great. It’s good because every client that we run across from an NFL perspective, either myself or somebody within my family has been through everything they're about to go through, right? We've played in all-star games. We've been to the combine, and we've gotten drafted. We’ve gotten signed, and then cut. We’ve switched teams, we've switched leagues, we've been retired. Then when you’re no longer playing, you have to do your post-career. So, everything they're going to go through - we've been through it. Being able to provide that guidance and information, and then being an accounting guy, I love contracts. I love numbers. So negotiating is like secondhand. 

It really is the “Lockett way” to be so warm and friendly and outgoing – and very approachable. 

Yep. And while Tyler and Kevin are not formally in the agency, they’re obviously always in my back pocket. They support me a hundred percent for sure. They're just one of the resources that I have. Between us three alone, then including Kylie, we have so many connections to the National Football League. 

I bet, absolutely. 

A lot of my ex-teammates are now coaches. Some are scouts. One ex-teammate is a GM. So it's just like overtime. Those that stay close to sports have been, you know, beneficial to us. And we just now use that to our advantage. 

Isn’t life all about networking? 

It is. It's all about relationships, a hundred percent. 

It also goes back to a great foundation with great parents. 

Yep. I appreciate that. 

When Tyler was playing, I remember seeing them at a few games in person, and you could just see it on their faces that they're genuinely warm & sweet people. And that warmth has radiated down to the next couple of generations. 

Yeah. I appreciate that. I really do. 

I got a couple more questions, my friend. Where are you based out of these days? 

Houston, Texas. 

Are you married? Do you have children?

Yep. I’m married to my wife, Tye, and we have one daughter, Hayley, who will be 13 in March (2024). She runs tracks. She's a track girl. She ran in the Junior Olympics the last two years. 

What's her favorite event in track?

The 400. She's a 400-meter runner. 

What was your event in track? 

I was a 100 and 200 guy. I could run the four, but I was a sprinter. 

There we go. Best of both worlds, right?

There you go. 

The 400 – it’s mostly a sprint, but you still get some distance in there, too. 

Get a little break, but not that One or that Two. That One & Two - you gotta come with it! <laugh>

So, the Wildcats’ Den. I hear you’re a Founder of that, too. 

Yep, I was one of the founders of Wildcats’ Den as well. 

What exactly is it? 

It’s a third-party collective that raises funds and does marketing for student-athletes with brands. N.I.L. is just a version of it. We’re doing it as an agency independently for clients. Then again, on behalf of Kansas State, and with my involvement with the University, we opened a full-service, third-party to the benefit of all Kansas State student-athletes. We’ve done deals with the volleyball team, the women's basketball team, men's basketball, football, track and field. We’ve done an eclectic group of deals just across the board for individuals, and some for team-wide deals. So, just trying to make sure Kansas State stays active in that space. 

That's awesome! You were one of the very first collectives in the whole country, weren't you? 

We've got to be around there. We came out in the spring of 2022. This became effective in 2021, on July 1st. So within the first eight months, we were up and running, and ready to go. Florida was probably one of the first ones. The gentleman that started it, or that was heavily involved from a legal perspective, happened to copyright my logo! <laugh>

No kidding!

Yeah, he helped me get my logo copyrighted and everything. Because of that, I was connected to what he was doing in Florida from an insider standpoint of knowing the knowledge. Which, gave me a little bit of leverage when helping to create The Wildcats’ Den. 

That's awesome. Again, it goes back to networking, right? 

That's it, that's all you! <laugh> 

From your perspective, do you see any governing bodies in the NCAA, or otherwise, that will come in and start regulating NIL? 

I don't know. I think that's a long-term goal. I think they also want to try to keep college college,and not make it a professional entity. But the problem is you're treating it or letting it run like a professional entity. You saw Florida State got in trouble, right? This is the first NIL infraction. They’re on two years’ probation now. The collective cannot do anything with Florida State itself for a year. Then from there, the alumni cannot do anything for two years. The infraction was that an assistant coach basically offered a student athlete the funds, and you can't have a coach involved with NIL. 

Oh, makes sense. 

So even though those conversations are happening every day everywhere, you can't let it somehow get to be public knowledge that it's been offered. And that's the infraction. Florida State was the first one.

What you can do from a culture perspective, you can say, ‘Hey, recruit. We have the Wildcats’ Den, which is a collective at Kansas State that helps Kansas State athletes. Over the last year, they've produced deals in the range of $150,000 to $500,000.’ You're not telling the athlete what they can do get, you're just telling the athlete what's being done at the university. Now, when you come to Kansas State, you would then have an opportunity to be included in the Wildcats’ Den activities. That's all you can say. You can't say, ‘we will pay you $150,000 to come to Kansas State’ - because that’s pay for play. 

As the coach, you don't want to do that anyway. You’d want to hand that off!

Of course, and everyone knows. So, I don't know where NIL goes. I know it doesn't go away. So, you've gotta figure out how to navigate it and be part of it. Because ultimately, if you think about it, Kansas State Football lost 20 players this year to the portal, for whatever reason. 

Was a lot of that NIL driven, do you think? 

I don't think all of it was. I think some of it was guys nowadays want to play earlier. If they're not playing, they want to go see if there's an opportunity for them to play. Back in the day you had to wait. You couldn't transfer yet – you had to sit out a year. So, you just kind of worked it out. Now there’s unlimited opportunities and if you do add in the NIL, there's a chance to get paid for leaving. The problem for Kansas State then is, you just lost 20 unexpected people, right? So, if you don't have the funds or the resources to bring new people in of the same caliber, or higher, you're now setting the university back from a talent perspective. And that could be a four- or five-year setback. That’s the reality of it. 

In respects to what you just said, do you think Kansas State put themselves in a pretty good position with the Building Champions Initiative, and getting all the buildings in a good spot? 

I think the building initiative is great, it's attractive, but it's not the driving force for kids going to schools. 

Has NIL actually become the most attractive thing? 

Yes. Because the kids are going to say, ‘Yeah, great sexy building. But, you don't pay me anything.’ Versus, ‘you pay me a hundred thousand, the building's okay. But I don't really care.’ It used to be the building fund that was the most attractive thing, but you've got to get the players there now because there's no need to have a pretty building if you don't have the players. 

For sure. 

I just think that it needs to switch, or it needs to kinda be split-up now. Those that are putting money into the building fund, needs to start putting money into NIL as well. Or, what you're going to see happen is you're going to lose talent. You're not going to retain it. You're not going to attract it unless it's out of high school. And eventually, your program's going to fall behind because you can't compete with those that are bringing the talent in. Right? Prime example: luckily at quarterback we're okay because Will’s leaving, and Avery comes in with a promising future. What if Avery wasn't Avery? What if Will still wanted that opportunity? We lost four quarterbacks in the portal. That’s crucial. We lost a running back. We lost two receivers. Plus, those that are transitioning to the National Football League. If you just look across the board, you don't have any of the returning pieces that really helped you get to where you are today. You're almost starting from scratch. 

Well look how much different this team was this year, versus last year. You could argue a lot of the difference was not having Felix and Deuce as two key pieces.

Exactly. 

Kansas State, historically speaking, has a proud of tradition of being a good school for Preferred Walk-on’s. Does this fact help with recruiting? 

It can, but it really only lasts so long. Those are the only kids that want to come that can maybe get a scholarship, but they're also not getting full scholarships to other schools. Otherwise, they would take them. 

Do those types of kids get any NIL at all? Like the preferred walk-ons? 

Not much. Nothing that helps suffice. I think there’s a little something for 'em, but once again, they're still not the starters. Right? I mean, what are you doing to keep the Will Howards around? That’s the point about it. I mean, I don't know why Will left. Obviously, he wanted to go pro. He decided not to go pro. But Will was a bonafide starter at Kansas State. He probably didn't want to deal with the noise behind him, and he lost some prominent players around him. If you're going to look at anybody, you’ve got to look at Will, too. He left and he, he basically started for two years. 

And he was good!

He was really good! He's going to be great at Ohio State. He's going to come mad and show people what he can do, and how he can throw the ball. So I mean, NIL's affecting everybody. This is just K-State's story because we're close to it. Some of these teams are getting some studs. Ohio State just pulled in Will Howard; they probably didn't anticipate doing that either. 

NIL is such an interesting world. 

Then lastly, one of my most favorite questions I love asking everybody. What is one of things that you miss the most about Manhattan, Kansas? 

The thing I miss the most about Manhattan, Kansas…

You know what, it's really just the people. I think Manhattan doesn't have an East or West Coast vibe. It's just real good Midwest folks. Everybody speaks to you, and they're approachable. They’re kind. It's different. I've lived in Florida. I’ve lived in California. It's not like that everywhere. So more than anything, I would just say the people. 

That's a great answer. And that's normally the answer that most people say. The thing they miss the most about Manhattan, Kansas: it's the people. 

It's the people. 

It is for sure the people, and you're good people too, my guy. Thank you so much for chatting with me. This one made me feel like I was talking to an old friend, and just catching up. It was great learning a lot about you as a person, the Lockett family, the NIL world, sports agencies and how everything goes. It was truly an honor. 

Oh, man. Well, I appreciate the time as well! Thank you, Tyler.

To learn more about Next Page Sports, and for NIL inquiries into Aliyah Carter, Ayoka Lee, Gabby Gifford or Sterling Lockett, visit nextpagesports.com.

Wildcat Legends: Where are they now? is brought to you by Community First National Bank. With two locations in Manhattan to serve you, Community First National Bank is helping to create the legend in you! Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. 

All Photos Courtesy of Kansas State Athletics 

 

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