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Ex-Monroe star Lockette turns heads at NFL Combine

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Humbled and excited about the opportunity afforded to him this week at the NFL Combine, former Fort Valley State receiver and track star Ricardo Lockette, an Albany native and Monroe alum, is more determined than ever to prove that he belongs at the next level.

"Determination runs in the family," Lockette said in an interview with his former conference's web site, thesiac.com.

Lockette, who initially wowed pro scouts with his 4.35 40-yard dash at the HBCU Senior All-Star Game in December, turned even more heads at the combine this weekend when he ran the second-fastest time of any athlete participating of 4.37 -- and top time for any receiver. Maryland RB Da'Rel Scott posted the fastest overall time of 4.34.

Lockette told the web site that he knows one of his biggest assets is his world-class speed.

"I'm expected to run the fastest 40," the 6-2, 211-pound speedster said, adding he had hoped to break the NFL record in the 40 set by current Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson, who ran the fastest recorded time in combine history of 4.24 in 2008.

Lockette said before the combine of his goal: "It would mean the world to me, a small-school guy coming from a small town to probably be on the face of every newspaper and the talk on every sports talk radio the next day. It would be a dream come true."

And while Lockette fell just short of his goal, he is certainly capable of breaking that mark. He said his fastest 40-yard dash time is 4.26.

Lockette, who originally signed with Auburn out of high school but failed to qualify academically, said that instead of taking the junior-college route, he decided to attend Fort Valley State because of his family connection to the school.

"I'm a fourth-generation guy at Fort Valley State, so it was kind of an easy fit for me to get in," said Lockette, whose grandfather, Willie, is currently a Chief Superior Court judge in Albany.

Lockette, who won a 200-meter national title the NCAA Division II Championships while at FVSU, said he doesn't think being from a small school will hurt his chances of being drafted in April. He said knows better than most that several small-school receivers have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL, such as Terrell Owens (Chattanooga), Pierre Garcon (Mount Union) and the most famous of all, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State).

Lockette had 23 catches for 262 yards last year for Fort Valley. He averaged 11.4 yards per catch and caught one touchdown.

And, of course, Fort Valley State has a history of producing NFL players.

"(Tyrone) Poole, Greg Lloyd, Nick Harper, there's a lot of guys," Lockette said. "I've spoken with several guys from Fort Valley State that went on to play and be successful in the NFL, and they've wished me well."

Lockette mentioned the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons as teams that he had talked with during the process and made his feelings known about potentially playing in his home state.

"I'd love to stay home," he said with a smile.

And the chances of that could be fairly good.

Dave Choate, a writer for the Atlanta Falcons-themed web site, thefalcoholic.com, analyzed Lockette's chances of ending up in a Falcons uniform: "Lockette is a classic Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons GM) late-round pick, a guy with a ton of promise from a small school who offers something the Falcons currently lack. That something is elite speed. We've spilled a few drops of ink on this guy already, but Lockette is basically a project. He has the size, speed and hands to become something truly special, but it will take a patient team to cultivate that. Don't be surprised if he's wearing red and black in 2011."

Lockette displayed his route running and pass catching ability, as well as his speed, during his workouts.

And for anyone who thinks that this small-town Georgia boy would be intimidated by being on the big stage competing with the likes of star WRs like Georgia's A.J. Green or Alabama's Julio Jones, Lockette only laughed at that notion.

"I won't get lost (among the crowd)," he said.

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Albany Herald sports editor Danny Aller, and information from The Associated Press, thesiac.com and falcoholic.com, contributed to this report