The most important thing Michael Locksley said Thursday, when he was introduced as the new football coach at Maryland, could be sounded like lip service, just the kind of thing you're supposed to say , if you mean it or not.
"Just like any family, as the leader of it, every decision," Locksley said. "And that's not anything I take lightly."
Martin McNair. Cole Field House.
The reason Michael Locksley is the coach at Maryland is because Martin McNair's son collapsed on the practice fields in College Park and later died. The Terrapin program is anchored in that fact in the present and the future. It is inescapable.
So, what is it that you have called "dream job," Locksley needed approval from Wallace Loh, the president of the school, or Damon Evans, the athletic director for whom he now works. No, Locksley needed approval from Martin McNair and Tonya Wilson.
"The McNairs were said to be making this decision," said Locksley's wife, Kia. "It was important for him to know that he was on board and supported him."
Michael Locksley will not forget Jordan McNair because Michael Locksley can not forget his own son, Meiko, who died in September 2017, killed by a single bullet in Columbia, Md., At age 25. The case is still unsolved. It affects the Locksleys every day.
"The circle of life," Michael Locksley said, "is not built for parents to bury kids."
These two families were normal, because Jordan McNair and Kori Locksley were classmates at McDonogh High in Charles County. Jordan played football. Kori played soccer. On the same day, they signed their letters of intent – Kori to play forward at Auburn.
"We had a connection," Kia Locksley said. "They were friends for years."
And then, a year ago September, Meiko Locksley was shot and killed. And then, last May, Jordan McNair fell ill during a workout, suffered heat stroke, and died two weeks later.
What the Maryland football program needs after all the tragedy and turmoil is someone who understands what players who will carry the program forward have been through. To that end, Matt Canada, the interim coach who admirably and ably guided the Terps through to the 2018 season that included the dismissal of the former coach DJ Durkin, was the choice I endorsed. He knew the kids. He understood their pain. He handled a situation of his own making humbly and nobly.
Locksley had worked at Maryland for 10 years, but he had been away. He knows the recruiting base and the high school coaches here as well as anyone in the country, but how could he understand the rubble left following McNair's death?
Turns out, he has never been wished for.
"It's not something that goes away," Locksley said. "It's a day-to-day fight."
For the good feelings in College Park on Thursday, May 12th, 2011 at 3:10 pm With the high school coaching community reinvigorated by Locksley's mere presence, with Locksley clearly describing as a destination – there are reasons to proceed with caution. Locksley's only as a head coach came in New Mexico, where he was fired four games into his third season. His record: 2-26. DUI arrest involving a minor who was driving to Locksley's son, and was not a résumé builder.
Please explain, Coach.
"As everyone else," Locksley said, "you mature, you grow."
"We talked about his past," Athletic Director Damon Evans said. "He's grown as an individual. I saw that. He indicated what he had learned. You could just see in him where he was then, which was eight to 10 years ago, to where he is now. He's had a lot of life lessons – as we all have. "
Including the hardest one. For the past three seasons, Locksley served as an offensive assistant at Alabama. In 2017, he was the co-coordinator who helped orchestrate the gameplan that opened the season with a decisive win over Florida State. That night, Locksley talked to Meiko by phone. The second of Locksley's four children had battled mental health issues. How they hung up, how could the father know?
"You can not believe it," Kia Locksley said. "I can do now." The best you can hope for: "I can do now."
I know where the Terrapins football program is concerned, it's a matter that Martin McNair joined in the revelry It mattered that Tonya Wilson, who could not make it to Locksley's introduction, texted her support.
But take away the marching band and the cheerleaders and the television cameras. Football coaching job from Michael Locksley. It matters that the Locksleys and the McNairs have each other.
"It means so much," Kia Locksley said. "Unfortunately, we are a part of that club together. And it's not that it makes you happy to know someone who can understand. But I think it makes you easy, you know, you can call somebody and say, 'I'm not having a good day.' "
What Michael Locksley makes of Maryland has not yet been determined. But these Terrapins, they have dealt with loss. They need someone who can not be grown-up and who can relate to their situation. They need someone who can stand behind at the press conference, proclaim that "every decision I make these kids will be made as if they were my own child" first practice.
Jordan McNair, but who will embrace it.
Kia Locksley stood behind her side of the family with her husband. She grew up in Fort Washington, not where her future husband was raised in Southwest D.C. She met Locksley the first day of her life at Towson, and she has lived out this coaching dream ever since – at Pacific and Army, Florida and Illinois, Alabama and now, once again, back home.
"A rock star," Michael Locksley said.
Kia Locksley with her parents and greeted old friends, with a glaring absence. Meiko, of course, never got to see the day his dad got the only job he says he ever really wanted.
"But he's with us every day," Kia Locksley said. "Every day he's with us. He's with us right now. "
Just as Jordan McNair is, too, always with the Maryland football program.