It's been quite a week for Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, who earlier in the week was named his team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, one of the league's most prestigious individual honors, and who on Thursday was named Seattle's nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
And before the award nominations came rolling in this week, Lockett showed his value to the team in yet another way heading into a Week 13 win over the San Francisco 49ers, putting his leadership on display. As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and some teammates detailed after Sunday's win, Lockett spoke to his teammates in Saturday evening's team meeting, asking teammates to remember why they play football, and to remember what the sport has given to them. It was an emotional and "really touching" meeting that players said was a factor in their victory the next day.
"Lockett is just one of the best people I've ever met," Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown said. "To have someone like him in our locker room I think has helped us tremendously. Obviously, people see the kind of player he is, but the conversations that you have with him, seeing the work he does in the community, he's all about positivity. The message he sends is nonstop positivity and just giving you different insights on how to view life in certain situations. He actually gave us a message before last week's game, that Saturday night, I think that really opened a lot of guys' eyes and really helped us in our efforts on Sunday. I'm very, very happy for him, and he's definitely deserving of (the Walter Payton Award nomination)."
Asked to elaborate on Lockett's message in that Saturday meeting, Brown said, "I think you just kind of get caught during this time of year, and depending on where you are in your career, you kind of just get caught up in the day-to-day and kind of try to perform. You're just trying to see how good you can be and what you can get out of this thing. People try to see what they can get out of it whether it's money, fame, building your brand, just trying to be great. His message to us was just remembering what the game has done for you. I think for a lot of us, coming from very humble beginnings, you kind of lose sight of that at times. If you're in this position for a long enough time, you kind of lose sight of what the game has actually done for you. When you come back and think about that, it just gives you a new appreciation for it. You give a different effort. I think we all give a great effort on Sundays, but when you keep that in mind throughout the four quarters, I think it gave us a different spark."
Lockett said the idea came to him to talk to the team earlier in the week, leading him to approach Seahawks coach Pete Carroll about potentially talking to the team. With Carroll on board, Lockett led a conversation with teammates that, as Brown and others noted, carried over to their play the next day.
"I just felt like I had to do something, it was something that was on my heart," Lockett said. "I just wanted to be able do my part. I'm realizing that sometimes if you don't step up and do your part, you never know who it is that you're going to touch. I was able to sit here and listen to what Duane said, I got to see what Russ (Wilson) and Carlos (Dunlap II) said, that's what I mean about in my foundation, everyone has a chance to shine. It doesn't have to be through sports, it could be through your family, it could be through speaking up, it could be through whatever it is that you want it to be, but those are the moments that I'm realizing that really creates a lasting change on people. When I got up there and was able to talk about our 'why', a lot of it was because we get so caught up with this game of football and what we have to do in order to get what we want out of football, but we miss out on what the game of football has done for us. We miss out on how it saved a lot of us from going to the streets or how much it gave us a chance to not owe any money in college because we got scholarship. For a lot of us, it has brought families together, it has done so many amazing things for us, and just being able to take a moment to sit back and think about what football has done for us gives you a different perspective on how to play this game and approach this game… When you really ask what your 'why' is and what this game has done for you, it doesn't matter what your record is, none of that matters."
As for those award nominations, and the Walter Payton Award in particular, Lockett's teammates can't think of a more deserving recipient of an award that goes to a player who "exhibits excellence on the field, and whose passion to impact lives extends beyond the game."
"He's a man that demonstrates everything that is good," said quarterback Russell Wilson, last year's winner of the Walter Payton Award. "He's a guy that is obviously a really amazing teammate to everyone, he works his butt off every day, he loves the game, but I think what's amazing about Tyler is that he uses his gifts to serve others and uses his gifts to love others and impact others in such a tremendous way. We couldn't have a better Man of the Year than Tyler Lockett."
Lockett is happy about the nomination for the Walter Payton Award less because of the attention it shines on him and the work he does, but more so because it means the work he is doing in his hometown of Tulsa and elsewhere is making a difference in people's lives. Whether it's the scholarships the Light It Up Foundation gave to 12 Tulsa-area high school students, or the job shadow program the foundation has established, Lockett has made it a priority to uplift youth from his hometown.
"Honestly, just to be nominated as the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, it really means a lot," he said. "I'm somebody that doesn't like to tell people a lot of stuff that I do off the field. It's kind of weird for me, because when I was nominated, then everybody's hearing about all the stuff that I do off the field. Sometimes you just get caught up and you don't want people to know because it makes you feel like you're doing it for everybody to see. For me, it was just a recognition that I really take to heart and something that I appreciate, because I've seen other people when I got here. I've seen what (Russell Wilson) does. I've seen what Bobby (Wagner) does. I've seen a whole group of people. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, even our general manager John Schneider. You see the stuff that people do off the field and the difference they want to make for whatever it is that they believe in. For me, I wanted to be able to do that same thing. There's a lot of things that I want to be able to do, but I understood that even the work that I want to do off the field is also a marathon, just like the football season. It's a marathon, it's never a sprint. I wanted to be able to focus on certain things, so that way when I'm done playing, I can continue to do those same things. That's not just something that's started and then it finishes when I'm done."
Lockett has also made it a goal to shed more light on the history of Tulsa, and in particular on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre that saw the prosperous Greenwood District, also known as "Black Wall Street," destroyed over the course of two days by armed white mobs, an event that set back opportunities for Black Tulsans for generations.
"Obviously, there's more that I want to do in Tulsa, and there's things that I have been doing, but one of the things that I think is really important between shining a light on your city but also shining that light onto the world. A lot of people don't understand that Tulsa once was what Atlanta looks like now. Everybody sees Atlanta and they see the successful African Americans and all that type of stuff that's going on down there, but very few people know that Tulsa was considered Little Africa—that was a nickname it was given. People moved from Arkansas and all these different places to be able to build this amazing community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 5-10 minutes from my house. Right there we had the Stradford Hotel. We had so many crazy things to where it was like they were about to name Oklahoma a Black state. That's how crazy it was.
"For me, when I grew up, there wasn't much there. I'm sitting here thinking there's nothing in Tulsa, but you go to Dallas, you go to Cali, you go to New York, come here to Seattle, everything looks amazing. I always looked at it like we were a step behind. I understand now why we were one step behind, because once we had it all, and once it was taken away, now all of a sudden you have African Americans who think sports is the only way, entertainment is the only way, selling drugs or doing whatever is the only way. It's because we don't have that exposure to see what we once had. If you grew up in Atlanta, you see successful doctors, successful lawyers, successful whatever, but in Tulsa, it's hard to find that. It's because it's hard to find it, but back in the day it wasn't. It was something that was literally right there—that's a CEO, that's a business owner, that's a hotel owner. Everything was there, and now that it's not, it's being able to create that same exposure that was once lost so that we can be able to be great again."
Of course, the other aspect of the Walter Payton Award is the on-field excellence portion, and Lockett is again proving himself to be one of the NFL's best pass-catchers. Lockett currently ranks 12th in the NFL in receiving yards with 881, and his 15.5 yards-per-catch average ranks fourth among players with at least 50 receptions.
Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Lockett is one of only nine players with 30 or more touchdowns—his 32 ranks seventh over that span—while his 3,957 receiving yards rank 12th in the NFL over that span. Last season, when Lockett set a team record with 100 receptions, he was one of only three players, along with Davante Adams and Travis Kelce, to have 100 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. With just 119 more yards this season, Lockett would become the second player in franchise history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, joining Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent.
"He's been a marvelous pro," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I say that because of his consistency, and his consistency at such a high level. He has never not been at the top level of play. He isn't always recognized for it for whatever reason, although I think in the past couple of years his numbers have been so crazy positive that everybody is aware of him. He continues to make huge plays happen in the game and he makes difficult plays look routine."
Take a look at Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett in the community, both in the Seattle area and beyond, throughout his NFL playing career. Lockett was named the Seahawks' 2021 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, given to a player for his excellence on and off the field.