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From bulletproof vests to getting wings at Oregon, Coach Carlos Locklyn cuts unique path

A former federal agent and Memphis prep coach, Locklyn's now a rising star

He’s in uniform in the parking lot, long before sunrise and well ahead of other coaches.

This, however, is no logo-branded polo and khakis.

Before he sleeps, eats breakfast or showers off the overnight residue - mental, physical- ubiquitous from a job that requires a bullet-proof vest, additional protective measures and a non-disclosure agreement, Carlos Locklyn confronts these elements along a twisting path tracing from Montgomery, Alabama, to Eugene, Oregon, with outposts in Chattanooga, Memphis, and Bowling Green, Kentucky in between.

A now-burgeoning college football coaching career traces to this work for the federal government.

“Some days, I showed up to Memphis in a bulletproof-vest and work boots to be on time for meetings,” says Locklyn, Oregon's running backs coach and among Dan Lanning’s initial hires earlier this year as the head Duck in charge. “I’m not saying I was Rambo or a commando, but it was work. And I had a group of great people I worked with on that job, that pushed me into coaching, that opened up different things for me as far as getting me able to chase my dream, to say I’ll work this shift for you so you can make this meeting. Guys and women I worked with on that job, they helped get me going. A lot of people poured into Carlos Locklyn the football coach. A ton of people.”

Perhaps none more so than Josh Storms.

Today, he’s Florida State’s head strength and conditioning coach for the Seminoles’ football program. Some six years ago, however, he’s the guy answering Locklyn’s out-of-the-Memphis-blue direct message on Twitter.

“I remember, pre-social media, what it was like just trying to get someone to answer an email, and I said to myself if I ever get that chance, I’ll always try to answer those messages,” Storms tells FootballScoop. “He messaged, and he was feeling a little stuck in high school football. I said we’re getting ready to go into the summer program, come by and let’s talk. He came in, had this great personality, was this ultra-humble, yoked-up, muscled dude. He’s been coaching high school in Memphis and knows a lot of the players, so I brought him in in.

“He’s volunteering, interning for us in the weight room. So he’s working law enforcement at night, then coming in in his (tactical) vest, full kit in the mornings, changing in the bathroom, showering in the facility, changing back into his kit and vest to go back to work. He was grinding to do it the hard way – and balancing life with a wife and twins at home.”

From Memphis prep coach to the University of Memphis, FSU, Western Kentucky and now Oregon, Locklyn leaves an indelible impression on all those he encounters. 

From Memphis prep coach to the University of Memphis, FSU, Western Kentucky and now Oregon, Locklyn leaves an indelible impression on all those he encounters. 

Locklyn shrugs off the talk of his road less traveled, as if going from an unspecified federal job to working for free in a Group of 5 weight room to being a lead assistant at perhaps the Pac-12’s last standing powerhouse is as common as a GA making copies and coffee runs.

Working the graveyard shift in the correctional system and then volunteering in a non-paid position all day isn’t normal?

“After that first year of doing that, and I sat in Coach (Ryan) Silverfield’s room with the O-line, he was a big help to me,” Locklyn says. “I went from sitting in the OL room with Coach Silverfield (now Memphis’ head coach) to the running backs room with Coach (Darrell) Dickey.

“When you’re chasing dreams, it’s never easy. And you’re not always accepted. I had to humble myself in a lot of cases. But those guys were great to me, and I kept going, kept showing up, kept being around. Those running backs (Tony Pollard, Antonio Gibson, Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor among them through the years) wanted me there. Those three guys kind of spoke it into existence. They told me, ‘You’re going to be coaching running backs somewhere big one day.”

Dr. Sherman J. Morris, his past experiences including both LSU and Memphis, among other stops in a career noted for both its work in recruiting and leadership development, remembers seeing early in Locklyn the intangible charisma and gravitas to which players are drawn.

“I thought that was really, really important and really a strong indicator of the person he would be,” Morris says. “The thing that resonated more than that was the attention and genuine affection he had being around his players or the players that connected with him. I mean they loved that dude.

“Seeing the sacrifice, the stuff he’s done for his players, telling them how much he loves them, cares for them and living it, that’s the part that really resonates. In his words, as he says, ‘I’m a ball coach.’ But more importantly, he’s a nurturer of people. There’s not one person he doesn’t know their birthday, knows every coach’s birthday he works with, he’s doing cards for coaches. And you know why? He said it’s because nobody ever celebrated his birthday when he was young, and he doesn’t want that. He called Mike Norvell’s wife, Mrs. Norvell, he knows her birthday and he’ll give Coach Norvell a call to tell his wife happy birthday. That’s Carlos Locklyn.”

Thus, the daily motivationals. Social media. Twitter.

Text messages – to the entirety of a phone book overflowing with contacts from his Alabama roots to his Chattanooga playing days to his Memphis coaching origin story.

“Wake up every morning,” this message says, as always arriving from Locklyn before sunrise, “with the attitude, ‘I can’t wait to see what God is doing today. #Faith.”

“It’s just a part of who I am, my DNA and a part of my ministry and being able to serve and relate to people,” says Locklyn, now with stops at Memphis and Florida State prior to his arrival in January at Oregon. “Football is just secondary to me, the relationship part of relating to people and the kids is what I live for.

“Sometimes it’s what I’ve read; sometimes it’s what God has put on my heart; sometimes it’s something someone said to me that resonated with me. I’m just a high school football coach who represents the high school coaches there in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s just football. Love the game, love being around kids and coaches.”

Love the competition.

To know Locklyn is to be touched by his irrepressible approach; to underestimate Locklyn is to ignore a coaching supernova that in less than a decade spans genuinely unspeakable street elements to high school coaching to … Nike’s signature school.

A slowdown on this arc is as unlikely as Locklyn missing a motivational message.

“There’s a list on my wall of what they call the top running back coaches in this profession,” Locklyn says. “I look at that list every day.

“I work my butt off, I’m a competitor. I’m going to be on that list.”

That last line isn’t a motivational message from Locklyn – yet. There’s little doubt it will be in due time.