ALBANY -- Go ahead, take a walk out to the infamous sand dunes near the Albany State football field. See that mammoth new path trudged in the middle? The one so wide it looks like team a bulldozers made it?
That's what Ricardo Lockette has been up to for the last three months.
And Tuesday, that hard work finally paid off.
"I've been training like a Spartan. I created my own new path in those dunes, man," Lockette said Tuesday evening from the Atlanta airport as he prepared to board a flight bound for Seattle, which signed the former Monroe and Fort Valley State star receiver to a three-year contract just one day after the NFL lockout was lifted. "I've just been watching, waiting for all this to end and I knew when it did, there were a lot of teams that were interested in me coming to help them."
Make that 12 teams, to be exact, Lockette said.
"I had 12 offers. Not just teams interested, but offers," said Lockette, who added that he narrowed it down to Seattle, Detroit and New Orleans, but ultimately "decided that Seattle was the place I needed to be."
That, and the fact that Sehawks second-year coach Pete Carroll wasn't just offering Lockette -- who turned in the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine earlier this year for a receiver (4.37), but inexplicably went undrafted in April -- a standard free-agent deal, which isn't guaranteed. Instead, the Seahawks stepped up for a three-year deal, and Lockette couldn't say no.
"It's a nice deal with a pretty nice signing bonus," Lockette said with a laugh, declining to elaborate on the exact financial terms, expect to say it was more than the league minimum of $365,000 a year. "They didn't just bring me in here to be a practice-squad guy. They brought me here to contribute."
News first broke of Lockette heading to Seattle late Monday night when Albany's WXFL Fox 31 sports anchor Andrew Schnitker first reported the story, citing an unnamed source. After that report, Lockette later posted on his Twitter account, "It feels great to be apart of the Seattle Seahawks!!!! 12th Man here I come."
The "12th Man" reference is to Seattle's famed die-hard fans who represent the 12th man on the field at any given time for the Seahawks due to their loud, boisterous supporters who makes it incredibly difficult for opposing teams to play at Seattle's Qwest Field.
Lockette told The Herald on Tuesday that he's never been to Seattle, but continues to get asked the same question about his new life in the Pacific Northwest.
"They say, 'Are you ready for the rain?' " he laughed. "That's all I keep hearing. So I guess I better get ready for it, huh?' "
But while Lockette prepares for the weather, defenses around the NFL had better start preparing for him. The former FVSU speedster won the 2009 NCAA Division II track & field national title in the 200 meters and wowed scouts at the NFL Combine in April, turning in a tie for the fastest 40-time for a receiver and fourth-fastest overall. Lockette has even boasted that he's been timed at 4.26 in the past, which is just .02 seconds off the NFL Combine record set by the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson several years ago.
Lockette doesn't bring the flashiest resume into the league, having only tallied 23 catches for 262 yards and one touchdown with a 24-yard kick-return average during his senior year at FVSU. But Wildcats head coach Donald Pittman said to disregard those stats, and made it clear before the NFL Draft that Lockette was a diamond in the rough.
"You know he didn't have the stats, (but) ability-wise he's just as talented as any other receiver in the country," Pittman told The Herald in April.
Lockette said he was stunned when all 32 teams passed him over -- round after round after round -- back in April, but remained focused on his goal of playing in the NFL, working tirelessly back home in Albany every day -- often two, three times a day -- as he waited for the lockout to end in hopes he would have a chance to sign with someone, anyone.
"I was doing my own personal two-a-days, man, and it's paid off. I feel blessed, because the closer the lockout came to ending, the better feeling I had about someone picking me up," said Lockette, who is -- ironically -- the second Monroe grad to play for Seattle; former Patriots Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, also a Monroe alum, was traded to the Seahawks in 2006 before being traded back to New England this past season. "I knew there were teams interested in me, and I knew there were opportunities waiting for me, I just didn't know there was so many (until after the lockout ended and I was able to make contact with the teams)."
Lockette said he continued to stay motivated by something that a close friend and fellow player told him after seeing Lockette go undrafted.
"Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick out of Pitt who I've worked out with a bunch (during the lockout), was telling me after I wasn't drafted, 'Man, Ricardo, I don't know what happened. I'm more upset than you. Those teams (who passed on you) are crazy. Just keep your head up,' " Lockette recalled. "That just showed me that there are guys out there -- talented guys like him who went in the first round -- who still believed in me and what I could do. And now, (Jonathan and I are) already talking about how we hope we're battling for most passing yards this year.
"It's a dream come true."
Lockette said he will finalize his contract today, take a physical and hopefully get on the field in shorts by Thursday. And when asked what the first thing he planned to do once he landed in Seattle late Tuesday night, Lockette didn't hesitate with his answer.
"(Ideally), I'd get off the plane, stretch and go straight to the field," he said. "That's how ready I am."