KAHUKU, Hawaii—Tyler Lockett didn't know what to expect as a rookie experiencing his first Pro Bowl. He wasn't even sure if people would know who he was.
Then a few minutes into his first practice, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice found him on the field for a handshake and a quick conversation.
Yes, people most definitely know who Lockett is after a dynamic rookie season that saw him earn Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors as a returner.
"It's an amazing experience," said Lockett, who will play for Team Rice in Sunday's game. "You come here—in a sense it's like the Senior Bowl to me; you're around a lot of players, see a lot of people, and something In the back of your mind is telling you, 'This is the best of the best.' It's an amazing experience because you get to interact with a lot of these guys. You don't think some people know you, then they'll come up to you like, 'Man, you had a heck of a season, congratulations,' and all that stuff. It really means a lot, because it allows you to be comfortable."
Lockett, who set a Seahawks rookie record with 1,915 all-purpose yards this season, is clearly comfortable here this week. And when he wasn't engaging in some playoff trash talk with Seahawks teammates who are on Team Irvin this week, he was rubbing shoulders with NFL greats past and present.
"That's a great feeling," Lockett said of interacting with Rice. "Growing up, you never know if you'll get the opportunity to meet these guys. If you just stay the course and keep doing what you're doing, keep your goals first and all that, eventually you get the opportunity to meet guys like that… Those are just things you enjoy, because eventually if you keep staying the course and doing what you're doing, people might look at you like that for years to come."
In addition to excelling as a punt and kick returner, which is what earned Lockett these honors, he was a big part of Seattle's offense as a receiver, catching 51 passes for 664 yards and six touchdowns, making him one of two players, along with Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, to have five or more receiving touchdowns while also scoring on kick and punt returns as a rookie. Since the Pro Bowl doesn't have kick returns, Lockett will have to make his mark on punt returns and at receiver, where he will also play despite being elected as a returner.
The Seahawks made a rare-for-them decision to trade up in the draft to get Lockett, giving up four picks to acquire pick No. 69 from Washington, and Lockett's presence in Hawaii this week is yet another sign of what a good deal that was for Seattle.
"It's obviously exciting," Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said. "Any time a rookie can be selected to the Pro Bowl right away, it's a one-of-kind type talent. He's a one-of-kind type person as well. He's as good as it gets. I'm excited, hopefully he takes (a punt return) back to the end zone."
One player who really can appreciate what Lockett brings to the table is Eagles running back and punt returner and fellow Kansas State product Darren Sproles.
"He's special, man," said Sproles, who will return punts for Team Irvin. "After a while, they're going to stop kicking him the ball, so he better get his returns in now."
Like Sproles, who is a big part of the Eagles offense in addition to his role on special teams, Lockett has proven to be much more than a dangerous returner during his rookie season.
"You can't defend him," Sproles said. "They can have him in the slot, they can play him outside, you kick him the ball, it's trouble. He's a player where you've got to pretty much know where he's at at all times."
Photos of Seahawks return specialist Tyler Lockett and linebacker Bobby Wagner as they participate in the first practice of Pro Bowl week with Team Rice in Hawaii.