It was a catch that demonstrated playmaking ability in the moment by two of the Seahawks' top offensive players, but it was also a touchdown years in the making for Tyler Lockett.
When Russell Wilson made an impossible throw while rolling left to the back corner of the end zone in a Week 5 win over the Rams, Seattle's top receiver was in the right place to make an equally impressive catch in no small part because of a lifetime of football knowledge that starts with growing up in an NFL family—his father Kevin was an NFL receiver for seven seasons, while his uncle Aaron, Kevin's brother, was a standout at Kansas State who went on to play in the Canadian Football League.
Lockett so often finds himself in the right place at the right time not just because of his exceptional athleticism, but also because of understanding of the game.
"When we watched him, we thought that he looked like the most experienced player in college football," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We thought he had the best route running ability, the best natural moves and the best instinct. He just was a smaller guy. We weren't sure how he'd translate his movement to the league. We held him in really high regard for all of the finesse and all of the instinctive things. Right now, there's nothing that he can't makes sense of. Some of the turn arounds that he made on the touchdown catch, on another catch he made on the scramble situation, it was just almost instant reactions to put himself in the great positions and all. He has the extraordinary ability to capitalize on that too. He can finish the play and make the game catch and all that as he showed. It's nothing new. It's just pretty exciting to have a guy playing like that at that level and also, to have had the background with Russ. The two of them, they're both just highly, highly instinctive football players… As we've seen so many times, those guys just see football together. They see it as one, and that's chemistry and extraordinary savvy."
Five games into the 2019 season, Lockett has been everything the Seahawks had hoped he could be in his first season without Doug Baldwin as a teammate. With Baldwin retiring, the Seahawks needed Lockett to step up into a bigger role, and he has thrived as Seattle's top receiver, recording team highs in catches (30), and receiving yards (379) that have him on pace to easily top his previous career bests in those categories, as well as three touchdowns. In addition to his spectacular touchdown grab against the Rams, Lockett also had a 44-yarder that ended up being the game-winner in a Week 1 victory over Cincinnati, one that once again demonstrated the big-play ability of a receiver and returner who over his five-year career has averaged 38.7 yards per touchdown, the fourth-highest mark in the league over that time. Much was made of Wilson having a perfect passer rating while targeting Lockett last season, and while the duo isn't quite to that level right now, Wilson is still 30 for 36 for 379 yards and three scores when targeting Lockett this season, good for a very impressive 138.3 passer rating.
Since last season, Lockett has 13 touchdown catches, which is tied for the most in the league among active wide receivers (Colts tight end Eric Ebron has 16, as does Antonio Brown, who is currently a free agent). A former All-Pro returner, Lockett also has 7,435 all-purpose yards since coming into the league, the most in the NFL over that span. And again, Lockett's physical ability has plenty to do with that success, but so too does his feel for the game that sometimes allows him to see things that coaches might miss.
"Players have the best vantage point of exactly what's going on on the field," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "He'll come over and he'll speak to 'Hey, when I'm in here, here's the way they're playing me. They're doing this.' Or, 'Hey, what about this thought?' I think he's very confident and comfortable that I respect him, we respect his thoughts and that he's going to say things and not that we're going to run every play that he wants us to run or take every suggestion. If Tyler says something, we're going to listen to it. We'll talk through it and see if it makes sense. That would be the number one thing. Again, just so poised and I think that's why he and Russ get along so well. They're both just so poised and even-keeled. He's having a great year so far."
Schottenheimer noted that Lockett's thoughts on the offense aren't that of a me-first receiver who wants more plays for himself, but rather-big picture observations about how a defense is trying to operate against Seattle. That deep understanding of the game has helped Seattle's offense, and not just on the plays where Lockett ends up making a catch.
"He actually grabbed me walking in, we were talking about a concept that he actually knows better than I know from not being here for the past seven years, and he was asking me, he wanted to talk a little more about it," Schottenheimer said earlier this year. "I think he's just very comfortable, with, again, the system. He's comfortable with me. I mean for him to walk off the field and go 'Hey, Schotty, I want to ask you about this' after [practice] shows you where he's at. Very confident."
Yet for all the impressive numbers and spectacular catches, the on-field production is just part of Lockett's story. Something of an NFL renaissance man, Lockett is also a poet, a pianist, and he even has his own cubicle on the third floor of the VMAC where he occasionally edits videos of his spoken word poetry. Next week, Lockett's new poetry book, "Reflection" will be released and be available in bookstores and online.
Lockett, who started writing poetry as an outlet in high school, covers a number of serious topics, from relationships to anxiety and depression to a friend contemplating suicide.
"It really means a lot to me, because I found out that the best way to be able to help somebody is to just talk about yourself," Lockett said. "One of the things I have in there, in my introduction, is if you talk about somebody else, they feel like they're the victim and they feel like you're coming at them. If you talk about yourself and you share your own scars, they'll listen more in a conversation because it's more transparent. For me, just being able to have the opportunity to make this book and just talking about myself and talking about a lot of other things. It's about self-reflection. It's more of a self-help book… It talks about relationships. It talks about one of my friends thought about committing suicide. It has a lot of different types of topics, and that's the thing I like about it the most."
Lockett said writing poetry is "kind of like a therapy session without going to talk to a therapist as many times as somebody might like to. It's about being able to write how I feel," something that helps him not just in his day-to-day life, but on the football field as well.
"I think it helps a lot," he said. "For me, a lot of the poems that I write, it's a lot of cool stuff, a lot of inspiring stuff, that motivates me when I get back out there on the field. Sometimes I repeat certain things to myself when I'm out there and I'm performing… Sometimes I do inspirational things and motivational things that help me out there on the field because it gets my mindset right. It allows me to go back to the beginning. It allows me to simplify everything from everything that when I started to play this game in the first place, so I don't get caught up in the glory, I don't get caught up in the money, I don't get caught up in the everybody liking me, and everybody praising me. It takes me back to that place where I can center my focus and focus on my faith and what got me here."