Tyler Lockett sure seems to have it all figured out.
Over the course of a 40-minute interview, the Seattle Seahawks fifth-year wide receiver showed he’s an All-Pro when it comes to perspective. Lockett appears to have achieved a level of psychological nirvana despite entering a season filled with sky-high expectations.
He’s now Russell Wilson’s go-to guy following the retirement of Doug Baldwin, assuming the role of Seattle’s No. 1 receiver. Lockett is coming off of his best year as a pro in 2018 with 965 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. But is he capable replacing Baldwin? Can he carry a passing game? Does he have the ability to become elite a la Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr.?
To paraphrase Lockett’s answers: I don’t have to, who knows and I don’t care.
Lockett wisely explained that he isn’t fazed by outside pressure – whether it’s coming from hopeful Seahawks fans or needy fantasy owners.
“I’ve never had expectations for myself,” Lockett said flatly. “I’ve never had goals for myself.”
That sounds absurd. Professional athletes, receivers especially, are notoriously stat-hungry and concerned over their individual performance. But even when pressed on it, Lockett wouldn’t relent from his approach to the game.
“I can play free or I can play and worry and the stats will be the same,” Lockett said. “It’s just a matter of how you want to get there. Do you want to play free or do you want to worry? My stats are going to say what they’re going to say.”
Those are enlightened words for a 26-year-old.
“I think that’s an ascended approach,” Pete Carroll said. “I think that’s a guy that understands what’s going on (and) where he fits. ... He just wants to play football and have fun with his team. He knows that the good stuff will come. He’s an extraordinary player, and he shows it every day.
“That kind of focus and the ability to get to that level of thinking is crucial for a guy to really have a chance to utilize all the talents that he has. He’s not worried. He’s not concerned. He’s not looking over his shoulder. ... That, to me, is really an ascended competitor. He gets it. That kind of trust in everything around him is what is freeing. That’s rare.”
Lockett’s faith helps liberate him from standard stressors. He’s been a devout Christian since childhood, and the belief in God’s plan keeps Lockett in the moment.
In Lockett’s eyes, being content is crucial. The problem nowadays is that content is often misconstrued as complacent. There’s a fine line as Lockett explains it. You can remain diligent in your approach and work ethic without having it take you out of the here and now.
“My faith in God drives me,” he said. “I could sit here and do all this stuff for me, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to make me truly happy. ... You’re going to want more if you’re doing it for yourself. If you’re doing it for something bigger, you’ll take a greater value in the little things. You’ll be more humble and more content.
“When you have a faith in God, you don’t worry about your life. What’s the point in serving somebody who created you and has a plan for you but then you never trust that the plan is going to prevail?”
Lockett’s humble Oklahoma roots helped establish those lessons. He joked that his home state was always “four or five steps behind” the other 49. There wasn’t much lavish wealth to be seen, and Lockett remembers being mostly insulated.
As far as Lockett remembers, there were no enormous homes in his hometown of Tulsa. Luxury cars capped at Dodge Chargers. National chains were considered fancy restaurants. The absence of extravagance helped ingrain in Lockett that fulfillment wasn’t dependent on money.
“People who are the happiest know how to make it work with what they’ve got,” Lockett said.
If there’s a fine line between content and complacent, there’s a similar tight rope between ambition and entitlement.
Lockett believes he’s owed nothing in life, which means the process is always more important that the result. If you’re strong in your beliefs, want for nothing and hardworking in your passions, then you’ll be able to thrive no matter life's outcomes. That goes for everything in life – football included.
“If you want to be the go-to guy, you’ve got to wait your turn,” Lockett said. “Everyone in life thinks they’re supposed to be given more than what they’ve got.”
The concept of “waiting your turn” is particularly applicable to Lockett’s upcoming season.
He’s been a factor since being drafted by the Seahawks in the 3rd round (69th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. Lockett made the Pro Bowl and earned All-Pro honors after his rookie season for his work on special teams. He posted 1,231 total return yards and two return touchdowns (one on a punt and one on a kickoff). In 2018, his best year as a receiver, Russell Wilson had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting Lockett.
But he’s always been the counterpunch to Baldwin. Until now, that is. Lockett has the traits to be the No. 1 Seattle needs him to be. While vertically challenged at just 5-foot-10, he has 4.40 jets, elite quickness and fantastic acceleration in and out of his breaks. He’s also impressively efficient, averaging a robust 10.1 yards per target over his first four NFL seasons.
Lockett knows he’s prepared for the opportunity at hand, which is why he’s free from the anxiety of living up to someone else’s expectations.
“Regardless of if it’s a great year or a bad year, I know that I’m going to do what I do, and I’m going to play the best game that I possibly can each game,” Lockett said. “Regardless of what I’m seen as or what I’m viewed as, it doesn’t really have anything to do with me. People have expectations of me. They have fantasy expectations of me. But at the end of the day, I don’t have to live up to those expectations. That causes so much worry and stress. All I have to do is go out there and be me.”
And “being him” is what will propel the Seahawks passing game in 2019. Lockett’s first 1,000-yard season seems inevitable as he’s the only proven commodity among Seattle’s youthful receiving core half comprised of rookies. The offense should have no issue generating points with Wilson at the helm, a stable of talented running backs led by Chris Carson and a stout offense line. The defense, especially following the acquisition of Jadeveon Clowney, has more than enough firepower to be a standout group as well.
Lockett, while mum on his personal forecast, is bullish about Seattle’s chances this season. The talent is unquestionably there on paper. Unsurprisingly, what’s more important to Lockett is the team’s mindset. He believes the roster is void of entitlement or anyone who thinks they’re owed any amount of reps, targets or touches.
“We can play with any team,” Lockett said. “It’s just a matter of if we can do the little things right. I think we’re going to be great this year. How far we go will all depend on how faithful we continue to be over the little things.”