Interview with Sean Locklear
Sean Locklear is a 9-year professional football player who has played for the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, and New York Giants. He grew up in North Carolina and attended NC State. He was drafted in 2004 in the 3rd round to the Seattle Seahawks.
G4: So Sean, being a professional football player and an offensive lineman, there’s a lot of wear and tear on the body with what you do and being in the trenches. What pearls of wisdom can you tell the youth of today regarding things you know now that you wish you knew in high school or college?
Sean: Taking care of your body and stretching is the one thing I wish I would’ve have done a lot more growing up in high school and college. It’s one of those things where you’re young, your body feels great, you don’t think you need these things. People tell you to stretch but I didn’t take it into consideration then.
I was healthy; I was playing well. I just went about my business. Now, as my body gets older, certain things start to hurt, to get tight. In my case, I have tight hips, which don’t necessarily hinder me from playing football but can be a part of everyday things.
If I would have done a better job of stretching, taking care of my body, I believe I wouldn’t have as much tightness that I experience now and deal with on a daily basis.
Just taking those 5 minutes here and there on a cord, on a ball, or whatever — just taking a knee and just stretching. Think about it, 2 or 3 minutes is not a long time considering everything else.
G4: Excellent. Now Sean, injuries come with the game and through those injuries, whatever they are, you’ve needed to commit to the rehab side. What have you learned there? Are there things that have really worked for you in the rehab side? Things that haven’t?
Sean: There’s a lot of things I think that work well. Like my rehab now, just getting up and getting to the rehab clinic and actually listening to the guys. You know, guys know what they are talking about and it’s just, being a professional sports athlete, you think you know everything.
You don’t know everything and after playing 9 years and seeing things done here and there, guys going through rehab. You definitely get a greater perspective.
People think rehab is just for athletes after surgery but if you have a little tweak or some tightness or soreness, or the body is just not feeling normal, you can go in and take care of those things. Getting on a bike or doing a specific stretch here and there, pre-practice or post-practice can be very beneficial.
It’s not only just going in before practice and getting things done. It’s also stretching and getting the rehab done after practice, or on your day off. It doesn’t have to be long, just a little bit here and there just to keep things going. Being consistent.
On the Mental Edge
G4: Sports are as big now as ever before and sometimes you see different attitudes on the field or the court. Some attitudes reflect true sportsmanship and some attitudes not so much. What can you tell kids today to be thinking about as they are out there on the field or on the court regarding their attitude toward their sport, their coach, and their parents?
Sean: You know, it’s all about becoming a good sportsman. You teach that from day one, becoming a good player, a good teammate—that’s not just being a good player but like you said, being a good teammate in the locker room, on the field, helping guys out.
You’re playing a game and yes, it gets tough, it gets physical, guys compete, that’s the whole part of sports, you want to be competitive. But at the same time, you must have some sense of maturity as far as understanding the game, knowing that you want to be good, you want to be the best, but there are going to be players out there that are going to try you or going to intimidate you or be a competitor.
That’s part of the game but you need to keep your mind. You must look at the bigger picture, and day one when you go to a sports team, most coaches talk about winning being the ultimate goal, winning the championship. Those things play a part, but you don’t want to go out here and be a knucklehead.
Guys get in arguments or you let some guy get in your head and force you into a cheap play, get a foul, maybe at a crucial time during the game. A lot of guys don’t think. It’s easy to get upset in that spur-of-the-moment, but at the same time you gotta keep your cool and understand that, yea you’re heated, you want to fight back or retaliate. At the same time it’s like the bigger picture, we’re here to win a game. I’m here to help my team. I want to be a role model to my team and to society so you don’t want to take those chances where you can screw up and cost your team a game.
In the end, you want to be remembered for the good things you did and not for the one key moment in time where you had a relapse and cost your team a game.
Maturity is a big word in sports. Keeping calm, taking care of yourself, taking care of your team, putting the team first is the main thing. Then worry about yourself. I think if you put your team first, you put your players and family first, then everything falls in line after that.
G4: 1 in 6,000 players will make it to the NFL. You’ve broken some big, big odds to make it to the NFL let alone play for 9 years.
Sean: Right, it’s just not there, but all through high school, all through college. You have challenges; you have guys that are good and it’s every year. You’re competing and even now going on 10 years in the NFL, once you get older, your spot is not guaranteed. Every year, even though you’re considered a starter coming in, you’re still competing with a rookie or a free agent. It’s always a competition.
The Turning Point
G4: What was the turning point for you?
Sean: I’d love to say that my road to where I am at now was easy. It wasn’t. I had things to overcome in middle school. When I was in fifth grade I was running during a drill and wasn’t running fast enough. I was still learning during my first full year of playing organized football and didn’t really understand work ethic. We’d run laps before and after practice and I wasn’t keeping up. My coach got frustrated and sent me home.
That was the first time I questioned whether I was good enough to play. That whole night I’m just thinking, “Wow, something I love at a young age I won’t be able to play any more with friends. I got kicked off the team; I wasn’t running hard enough; I wasn’t doing good.”
I had that night to think about it and luckily, my coach called me back and said, “Hey, maybe I was a little too rough on you. I know you’re young but come back out tomorrow and try this thing again.”
I knew that day that I had to change. It wasn’t about me. It was about doing what the coaches say and believing that they are doing the right thing. After that, my thought patterns changed and I wanted to come out and do whatever was needed to stay on the field and help my teammates and just be there. That’s my little inspirational story, my little Michael-Jordan-getting-cut-from-a-team moment.
G4: Wow! That story points to the consequences for your actions and you still, today, remember that?
Sean: I remember that day clearly. There are a ton of little stories I could tell but that is the main story at the beginning where I had to realize that everybody can play. You don’t just stand out because you are out on the field and playing. You must take care of yourself, condition and run, not just be out there but do things the right way.