By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Three years ago, as a blue-chip recruit and U.S. Army All-American defensive end from 5A state champion Ennis, James Lockhart had his pick of colleges with offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
"There's nothing like it," the 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive lineman says of the recruiting process. "As a 15-, 16-year-old kid, that's pretty incredible talking to Nick Saban, talking to Mack Brown, guys like that. It was an incredible experience."
Lockhart, who enrolled at Baylor as a mid-year transfer from Texas A&M after two seasons with the Aggies, calls it a "humbling experience" to play on the Bears' scout-team defense. But, it's also making him a better player while improving the offensive line at the same time.
"All the offensive coaches have nothing but great things to say about Lockhart," defensive line coach Elijah Robinson said. "He's had a great attitude. He's kind of running the deal with all the young d-linemen on the scout team, getting those guys together, and I think he's making our offensive line better every week."
His intent, though, is to be in the Baylor defense's starting lineup next season.
"I've told Coach E (Robinson), I don't want to be great, I want to be elite," he said. "I've been told here and there from different coaches on this staff, `Hey, you have a chance to play professionally. Make the most of this.' Just to hear that for the first time since I've been in college, that really brings a fire to me. I don't want to do a good job in team and individual, I want to do a great job. I want to set the example for other players."
Lockhart is one of three Division I transfers sitting out this season that could be starters for the Bears next year, joined by wide receiver Jalen Hurd (Tennessee) and offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen (Clemson).
"I think he can do a lot," Robinson said. "He's a guy that can play inside or play outside for us. He's gained some weight for us. He's a smart kid, so he'll be prepared to play all four positions next year."
At Ennis, he was part of a team that started the 2014 season with two losses before stringing together 14 consecutive wins. The Lions rolled through the 5A Division II playoffs with wins over Sulphur Springs, Mansfield Timberview, The Colony, South Oak Cliff and Canutillo and then rallied in the last minute to beat Cedar Park, 38-35, in the championship game.
"You can ask (junior running back) Terence Williams, at Ennis we didn't really have a lot of size," Lockhart said. "And as far as talent, we have maybe one player a year go to a DI school. But, what really sets us apart is our heart. So, just to be a part of that state championship legacy, that's amazing."
Although he played sparingly as a freshman and made eight tackles in 12 games last season for the Aggies, Lockhart said, "Still to this day, I don't regret" the decision to go to A&M. He played behind two-time All-America defensive end Myles Garrett, who was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
"I made a lot of lifelong friends and very intimate, good relationships with a lot of people there," he said. "I learned a lot from (defensive coordinator John Chavis). And heck, I was behind the No. 1 pick in the draft, so I learned a lot. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything."
With a limited window as a mid-year transfer -- "you only have two, maybe three weeks, to find a school" -- Lockhart got assistance from his high school head coach, Jack Alvarez.
"Coach Alvarez and (Baylor tight ends coach Joey McGuire) are real cool, so it was a little bit of connection and timing, to be honest with you," Lockhart said. "Coach Alvarez knew I was transferring, so he hit Coach McGuire up and put in a good word for me. And luckily, everything paid off. I had a couple offers, but mainly they were all out of state. So, I got the offer from Baylor, and it was a done deal."
A weight room warrior, Lockhart said he would "love, love, love after football to be a strength and conditioning coach, here or anywhere."
For now, it's just another area for him to compete. "Oh, for sure, every day."
After a bye week, the Bears (0-5, 0-2) will face 14th-ranked Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1) at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 14, in Stillwater, Okla.