Why you should care
Even if football isn’t your thing, it’s fun to spot a star pre-supernova.
Eric Thomas, head football coach at Lee’s Summit High School in Missouri, says he remembers the precise moment he thought quarterback Drew Lock might be something special.
It was during a preseason team camp heading into the 2010 season, under the lights of a college campus and Lock, not even yet a freshman, had the reins of the JV squad for the very first time and was marching the Tigers down the field. Thomas kept calling in the same run-oriented play, but instead his QB continued to go with option two and chuck it for positive gains. Finally at the goal line, a run seemed the natural choice, so Thomas pulled in his new signal-caller and suggested a hand-off. The young kid’s next move? Nod yes, but go throw a touchdown. “That was probably the first time we really realized the possibilities with him,” Thomas tells OZY.
Pressure makes me perform.
- Drew Lock
Since that time, it’s been a rapid ascent for this baby-faced 18-year-old with shaggy brown hair and a Midwestern drawl, with his daring flashes of brilliance combined with a remarkable throwing arm. Obviously, it’s waaaay early to know who from the ranks of incoming first-year college folk will have a shot at NFL stardom, but this 6-foot-3, 205-pound stud has certainly attracted the attention of a lot of the experts. The clearest sign was how he spent this past summer, at a super-selective football camp in Oregon known as the Elite 11. You practically have to be heir to the Heisman to get in this all-quarterback retreat, which has hosted such Heisman Trophy winners as Matt Leinart, Troy Smith and Tim Tebow, as well as future NFL draft picks like Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck.
“Drew Lock is an NFL prospect the day he steps on campus,” Trent Dilfer, retired 13-year NFL quarterback and head of the Elite 11 camp, said to theSaint-Louis Post Dispatch earlier this month. “He’s one of my 10 favorite kids I’ve ever worked with.”
That campus will be the University of Missouri, where his father played offensive line in the ’80s. There, fans may be treated to some eye-opening stuff, from an athlete who was also recruited to play in college (because of course he was) for his abilities as a shooting guard in basketball. Indeed, the tale of Lock may reaffirm how well the skills of a multi-sport athlete, in his case on the hardwood — precision footwork, quick releases and clutch decision-making — translates so well onto the gridiron.
Specific to Lock’s skill set, which has already drawn comparisons to the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers, a first-round draft pick, league MVP and Super Bowl champion, Dilfer says that Lock has a “no-flinch mentality” — that he’s in control and nothing unnerves him no matter the gravity of the situation — as well as an ability to extend the play with his athleticism both in and outside the pocket, skills that give him a real shot at the NFL.
Naturally, a lot can happen in the course of a college career. Including injuries. But for now, Locks tells OZY he thrives on pressure: “Pressure makes me perform.” He points to the opening game of his sophomore season, when he was extremely nervous in his first varsity start but led the Tigers to a decisive 45-14 win. “I threw three touchdowns and ran for two,” he says matter-of-factly. By the end of that season, against rival Blue Springs — the state champs that year as well as the next — Lock had solidified his place on the national radar as a prospect to watch.
“People that saw the score the next day pretty much thought we were playing basketball instead of football.” The game ended with an 84-62 loss, but Lock threw for six touchdowns and more than 300 yards with Mizzou scouts on hand. “That’s when it kind of hit me that when the pressure’s on, I guess I can play a little bit.” You think?
In his junior and senior seasons, Lock approached a combined 6,000 yards through the air to go along with 63 touchdowns (plus eight on the ground) against just 12 interceptions, and completed passes at better than a 60 percent clip. And Lee’s Summit had its strongest title run in years last season following an 8-1 start, although this season, at 4-6, was perhaps one to forget. Lock doesn’t see it that way, though, saying he wouldn’t trade the experience for any other, that before he takes on his next challenges of trying to crack the lineup at Mizzou before starting down hard-charging, five-star defensive ends from the likes of Alabama, Auburn and LSU breathing down his neck, he’d want to face the most adversity possible.
As he prepares for next year, Lock is looking ahead, way downfield as any good quarterback would. Meanwhile, Eric Thomas, his high school coach, is looking back with a wisp of nostalgia. “This is going to sound kind of funny,” he says, “I’m kind of looking forward to coaching a high school quarterback again. With Drew this year, I felt like I was coaching a college quarterback.”
It probably won’t be long before Lock’s college coaches just two hours down the road at Mizzou feel the same way, that despite his age he may already play like a pro.
Photography by Chuong Doan for OZY