Locke finds balance between football and track

By Bobby Reagan

Most football players get a few weeks to relax after a tough season full of bumps and bruises. But freshman running back Derrick Locke just goes from one season to the next.

The Hugo, Okla., native is also a member of UK’s track and field team, competing in sprints and long-distance running.

“It’s hard balancing the two with practices and class,” Locke said. “I’m not going to lie, it’s rough, but I love both sports and love to compete.”

Despite the busy schedule and lack of free time, Locke said he’s benefited on the football field from running track. He said he has become quicker and is less prone to cramps due to his track background. Sophomore fullback John Conner, Locke’s regular lead blocker, says Locke’s speed helps him as well.

“Derrick is so quick it makes my job pretty easy,” Conner said. “With his 4.2 40-yard dash speed, I know on plays to the outside, I have to get out there quick to throw a block for him.”

While his track skills can translate to the football field, Locke said he cannot bring his football mentality to track. He said one of the hardest things to do, besides balancing his schedule, is remembering not to run on his toes during the track season.

“It’s a big difference because in football, you have to be on your toes in order to make cuts,” Locke said. “In track, it’s totally opposite, and I need to get that out of my head, but it’s tough when I go from football practice to track practice.”

Locke is able to use his track running style in football when he is in the open field and can use his bursts of speed.

As a freshman, Locke led the Cats in rushing touchdowns with five and tallied 521 yards on 94 carries. Head coach Rich Brooks said Locke will be part of a running back by committee system this season.

“We have four very, very talented tailbacks,” Brooks said. “I think from the running standpoint, even though Rafael (Little) was great, I think we have the potential to be great running the football with those guys.”

Conner said Locke brings a little more agility to the field than his running back counterparts, freshman Moncell Allen, sophomore Alfonso Smith and junior Tony Dixon. However, the four-headed monster will do damage together this year, Conner said.

“It’s very refreshing knowing how deep we are at running back,” Conner said. “If one guy goes down, there are three other very capable backs that we have confidence in.”

Locke followed an impressive freshman football campaign by being named the indoor SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year, selected by the conference’s head coaches. Locke set the UK freshman record in the long jump with a leap of 25 feet and 5.25 inches, which was good enough for third place in the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships last month. After finishing 12th in the long jump at the NCAA Championships, Locke was selected first-team All-American by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“I’ve had all-right freshman years in both sports,” Locke said. “I just want to go out and give it my best and improve each year with both football and track.”