Locklear describes the NFL as a place where a player is simply happy to be when he’s a rookie and even into his third or fourth season. But when a player is in his ninth year and is a reserve, like Locklear was in Giants camp this preseason, he says that player is hungry, knowing he’s always one play away from being a starter. Or out of a job.
“That’s the year-to-year, day-to-day battle,” says Locklear, whose nickname from his hometown of Lumberton, N.C., followed him to NC State and to the NFL (although he says now it’s been shortened to “Bread” or taken on other variations, like “Jiffy Mix” or “Wonderbread”). “If a guy gets hurt or if he isn’t playing well, you have to come in and play. It happens. It’s a business.”
And Locklear has benefited from that business. He signed with the Giants as a back-up tackle last April after a year with the Washington Redskins and seven years with the Seattle Seahawks, a team that took him to Super Bowl XL in 2006.
But after Giants starting left tackle Will Beatty missed time in the 2012 preseason with a back injury, Locklear started the first week against the Dallas Cowboys. And barring any last minute decisions, Locklear will start again on Sunday when the Giants take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a week of practice where he worked with the first team.
Stepping in has been an easy job for Locklear, who was first-team All ACC with the Wolfpack in 2003. “I’m always competitive,” he says. “A guy goes down and you have to be ready to play. I always take my reps like I could be a starter. I always have the mentality that I could be a starter.”
Locklear doesn’t know what might come of his starting gig or if Beatty will return to the lineup soon. And he doesn’t bother thinking about it.
Instead, he knows he has to take advantage of the job since he realizes that he has only a certain amount of time left in the NFL, where he says the average career of a player is around three or four years. “You take it as is,” he says. “It’s year to year. I’m recently married [to wife, Tiffany] and have a kid on the way.”
And that makes him appreciate the opportunity he has against the Bucs on Sunday even more because, he says, “Everybody says, once it’s done, it’s over.”