Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is known for being a role model for his young teammates and fans in many ways, whether it be through his faith, humility, or leadership. However, Lockett is candid about the fact that he hasn’t always been a good example for others.
In September, Tyler Lockett shared about an unspecified incident during his time at Carver Middle School while growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma that got him in serious trouble. The infraction was so severe that Lockett was facing a 45-day suspension, but the assistant principal, Cletta Driver was lenient, and decided to give Lockett 5 days and advise that he seek out counseling instead.
Lockett hasn’t had another disciplinary infraction since. After graduating from Carver, the 5’11” receiver starred at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa before being recruited by Kansas State. There, Lockett was a nightmare for opposing defenses, managing 106 catches for 1,515 yards and eleven touchdowns in his senior season. This dominance merited a third-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, and the rest is history.
“Now, when I look back, I see how God places people in our lives to guide us and protect us,” Lockett wrote in a September Instagram post. “If Mrs. Driver didn’t give me a second chance, my future would look a lot different.”
To honor Mrs. Driver, Lockett wore a pair of cleats adorned with the Carver logo during warmups earlier this year. He also honored former classmate Roy Givens’ waffle restaurant, “Waffle That!,” during a different pregame warmup with these sweet cleats.
Lockett’s efforts to give back to the Tulsa community go much further than just pregame cleats, though. In 2019, Lockett’s Light it Up Foundation worked in coordination with local churches to provide meals for 12 families in need during the holiday season. In his work with the Light it Up foundation, Lockett carries on the family legacy of charitable work that began with his grandfather, John, who founded the organization.
In addition to helping to feed hungry children, Lockett has given back to Tulsa youth through promoting educational opportunities. Last year, as part of his work with Light it Up, he founded the “I Know I Can” initiative, which is giving 12 Tulsa high school students the opportunity to “job shadow” for two days at companies that are sponsoring Lockett and the foundation. Before the pandemic, eight members of the class of 2021 were set to participate in the program, but it was cancelled due to safety protocols. Each student still received $10,000 towards their college education, though, an amount which the foundation had already pledged. Four more members of the class of 2022 will have an opportunity to partake in the program next summer.
“We want them to know that they deserve to shine,” Lockett said of the kids in the program. “What we want to do is to invest in them so they can see just how important they are, that we believe in them as well and hopefully they take advantage of that and they become whoever they dreamed of becoming.
“I believe in giving people a chance,” Lockett added. “When someone invests in you, it might give you hope and see something in yourself that you didn’t see before. We want to help young people chase their dreams. Finding cool, creative ways to invest in people — that’s what I find joy in.”
Last summer, Lockett may have found his most creative way of investing in people—and their business— yet. The avid poet and spoken-word artist that he is, it was only a matter of time before Lockett became involved in some sort of literary charity, and when the opportunity to partner with Tulsa’s only black-owned bookstore came about, Lockett seized it.
In coordination with his uncle, Aaron, and the Light it Up Foundation, Tyler designed a set of bookmarks which feature a photo of the 7th-year NFL veteran on the front, and information about Oklahoman black history on the back. The bookmarks are available in sets of eight and 16 at Fulton Street Books and Coffee in Tulsa or on their website.
Tulsa has a critical place in African-American history, as it was home to one of the most prosperous black communities in America during the early 20th century. “Black Wall Street,” as it has come to be known, was destroyed when mobs of white Tulsans attacked the neighborhood in 1921, killing around 300 black residents and destroying more than 1,200 homes. The history of Tulsa’s historically black neighborhoods has gained prominence since the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, as well as the 100th anniversary of the massacre, which took place earlier this year.
“A lot of that was even swept away, and people are just now starting to hear about it,” Lockett said in May 2021. “Just being able to talk about the history of what it was like in Oklahoma… it was a place where African Americans excelled. It was a place where they called it Little Africa. It was a place where people were doing great things in business and all that different type of stuff. And so this idea, it’s us trying to be able to invest again. Invest in ourselves, into the community of African Americans that are doing great things in business.”
The proceeds from the bookmarks will do just that; half of the proceeds will go to the bookstore, and the rest will go to Oklahoman black-owned businesses selected by Tyler and Aaron Lockett.
At 29, Lockett is likely already into the second half of his NFL career, but his charitable impact is just beginning to be felt in his home city of Tulsa, through efforts like this bookmark project. With a heart as big as his, there’s no doubt that Lockett will continue to grow his charitable efforts in the future, and towards his retirement, and do his best to empower Tulsa’s youth, small businesses, and African-American community.