Darrell Hall knew he had a special talent in Tyler Lockett.
As the former football coach at Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School, not to mention a history teacher, Hall even had the perfect historical reference to represent Lockett's ability.
"He walked softly, but carried a very, very big stick," Hall said, referring to Theodore Roosevelt's early 1900s quote on foreign policy. "I'd love to have about 20 more of him."
Now the leading wide receiver for Kansas State, Lockett was a three-year starter and captain during Booker T. Washington's state championship run his senior season. He had 765 yards receiving and also played contributing roles at safety and kick returner.
That got him noticed by several high-profile schools, but Lockett ultimately followed his family's familiar path to Kansas State. His father, Kevin Lockett, helped turn around the Wildcats' program under coach Bill Snyder in the early 1990s, and his uncle, Aaron Lockett, was a prolific wide receiver and kick returner a few years later.
"How does the state of Oklahoma let three of them get out?" Hall asked. "With its tradition at Oklahoma State, Tulsa and OU, it's confusing why they'd let another Lockett leave and go to Kansas State. It blows my mind."
Especially the way that the youngest Lockett has played against them. Last season against the Cowboys, the junior became the first player in school history to have multiple 100-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns in a victory that helped boost the Wildcats to the Big 12 title.
Kansas State (2-2) visits Oklahoma State (3-1) on Saturday.
"He is a wonderful young man and tries to do everything right," said Snyder, who has always spoken highly of Kevin and Aaron, too. "He has a very complete value system and runs fast and catches the ball well. He has talent in a number of areas."
Kevin Lockett remains the Wildcats' career receiving leader with 217 catches for 3,032 yards, while Aaron Lockett is fourth on the career list with 137 catches for 2,400 yards. He also ranks second in career punt return yardage.
"They all come from a great family background," Snyder said. "They are great teammates and are very diversified. They are talented in many areas other than football. They have all been competitive on the field and have worked hard and done all the things that we have asked them to do. I could go on and on.
"On the field, their similarities are they all played wide receiver and they all caught the ball extremely well. Kevin, I believe, was a much more natural receiver but the others have worked extremely hard in order to develop the capabilities and have become equally as successful at catching the ball."
Kevin Lockett may have started the pipeline to Kansas state, but he allowed Tyler to choose where he wanted to go. It just happened the choice was simple.
"We always wanted to give Tyler his free reign," Kevin Lockett said. "We didn't want to force him to follow in my footsteps or my brother's footsteps."
While it was hardly a surprise that Lockett chose the Wildcats, it did turn heads when Snyder — who usually redshirts his freshman — decided to put him on the field right away.
There was no way that the sage coach could keep the speedster on the sideline.
"I originally went into the season thinking that Tyler would be a redshirt freshman," Kevin Lockett said. "That's just what the majority of Coach Snyder's incoming freshman do."
Instead, Lockett reaped a plethora of accolades for his receiving and kick returning prowess, even though the season was cut short. The reason was a lacerated kidney he sustained against Oklahoma State — after he'd tallied nearly 400 all-purpose yards.
He had a big sophomore season, too — 44 catches for 687 yards and four touchdowns. And this season, he already has 29 catches for 469 yards and another score.
"When you give it all you have out there and you leave it out on the field and you still wind up empty, you can't do anything about it," Lockett said. "That's the kind of feeling that you got. Usually when you give it all you have, you usually come out on top and you usually win."