When I spoke with the NFL’s Davis brothers, Vernon and Vontae, before last weekend’s youth football camp at their alma mater, Dunbar, they confirmed that they decided where to go to college because of Mike Locksley. He’s the DC native and former Maryland and Illinois assistant coach who gained renown by developing a pipeline of gridiron talent from DC to whatever school employed him.
His powers will now face their greatest test: Locksley just took the head coaching job at New Mexico. Shortly after taking the job, Locksley landed two of the top prospects in DC’s prep class of 2009: Coolidge’s heralded quarterback Emmanuel Yeager and the city’s top receiver, also from Coolidge, Derrell Person. (However, Yeager, who went to three different high schools here and whose recruitment was marked by questions about his transcript, recently dropped off the New Mexico squad, citing family issues back in DC.)
So I ask Vontae, who was lured to Illinois by Locksley and thrived there, the question that every rival recruiter in college football has been wondering for years: What’s Locksley’s secret?
“It’s no secret. He doesn’t have a secret,” says Vontae, a No. 1 pick of the Miami Dolphins in this year’s NFL draft. “He’s a DC guy, and he makes DC guys feel comfortable with him. He won’t tell you anything he doesn’t mean.” (The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Locksley’s salary of $479,233 while with the Illini made him one of the highest paid workers on the state’s payroll.)
Though Locksley’s workplace is now two time zones and a world away from DC, the Davises remain convinced that he’ll still work his recruiting magic — even in Albuquerque.
“Oh, he’s going to bring talent that New Mexico has never seen before now,” laughs Vontae. “Let me tell you that!”