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When opportunity knocks, what will you do?
Telly Lockette decided to answer the call.
Having led Central’s football team to three state championship appearances – two championships – and a 60-10 record on the field, Lockette accepted an offer to become the running backs coach at the University of South Florida.
Lockette, 38, said that he received the call from Bulls head coach Wille Taggart this past Saturday – Lockette’s birthday.
“It was definitely like a birthday gift,” Lockette said. “I was in shock. At first I thought it was just for an interview. But he told me that it was to offer me the job and I was just so ecstatic. I had to pinch myself. This is such a great opportunity for me and for my family…this is such a blessing.”
“I’ve been smiling from ear to ear since it happened. I’ve come from a long line of great coaches that taught me to be a good person and to do it the right way. And for all of this to happen, its so gratifying,” Lockette said.
Lockette’s name was floated around in recent days, linked to positions at the University of Miami and Florida State. But Lockette confirmed that both of those positions were not “on-the-field” positions that would make him a full-fledged college coach.
“I felt this was the best opportunity. To be able to on the field working with kids and have the ability to recruit; that was major for me,” Lockette said. “I did receive an offer from a college in 2010 after our first state championship, but my daughter was just being born and I didn’t want to make a move at that time.”
Lockette became the head coach at Central in 2008, following his time as an assistant at Northwestern – his Alma mater. Lockette’s time at Northwestern was cut short as he was a part of the coaching staff that was let go in connection with the scandal involving former Bulls running back Antwain Easterling.
Lockette and all the other coaches involved – many of whom were on Lockette’s staff at Central – were absolved of any wrongdoing and granted the ability to coach football again.
Years removed from entire ordeal, Lockette said that everything has come full circle.
“To be fired on national television really, to be cleared of everything, then to get back to doing what I love and have success at it, to now being able to coach on the college level – it’s amazing how God works,” Lockette said.
Lockette’s resume as a high school head football coach is impressive.
He built a 60-10 record with the Rockets (though its acknowledged by the FHSAA as 47-23 as it stripped away 13 wins from the 2011 season because Central was found to be playing with an ineligible player) and won a pair of state championships (2010 and 2012).
Lockette also coached some of the best talent South Florida has had to offer in recent years. Current college standouts Devonta Freeman, Rakeem Cato, Jeff Godfrey,Tommy Shuler and others all played under Lockette. Even currently, with top division-one talents in running backs Joseph Yearby and Dalvin Cook and offensive lineman Trevor Darling, Lockette has gathered and developed talented players.
Most importantly to Rockets fan, Lockette completely changed the team’s fortunes against neighborhood rival Northwestern. Previously always playing second fiddle to the Bulls, Central began to dominate the match up – winning every match up since 2009, including being the team that ended the Bulls’ 20-season playoff appearance streak in 2011.
“I would like to think and hope that I left the program a lot better than I found it,” Lockette said.
Central principal Gregory Bethune, in his first year at the school, said that coaches like Lockette are hard to come by.
“Guys like coach Lockette are cut from a different cloth,” Bethune said. “He was well-respected on the field and in the [school]. His relationship with the kids was great because of the way he was able to relate to them – because he came from the same places they came from and been through the same stuff they’re going through.”
“You can never truly replace a coach like Telly Lockette,” Bethune added.
That’s something that Lockette hopes will help him when he comes back to Miami-Dade county – as a recruiter. USF has typically done well in the area – including this year when they nabbed Northwestern running back Darius Tice and for Central kicker Emilio Nadelman.
Lockette hopes that his success serves as motivation and inspiration for not only his players but for fellow coaches in South Florida.
“This just proves that high school coaches from South Florida are good coaches and we can make it to the next level,” Lockette said. “I told my players to ‘never give up on your dreams’. And I hope that this lets the young coaches in the area know that hard work and doing things the right way pays off.”
“I’m a Bull, once again.” Lockette said.”
J.T. Wilcox, SFHSSports.com