PEMBROKE — Playing in what many consider as the toughest football conference in the state going up against college level talent every Friday night, Purnell Swett’s Kaelin Locklear used that to help himself make impressions with college programs.
“I played against the No. 1 running back in the nation,” Locklear said, referring to former Scotland running back and University of Georgia signee Zamir White. “I’m going to go to college and use everything my coaches gave me and use everything I learned in this (Sandhills Athletic) conference.”
On Tuesday, the Rams’ former defensive end signed his letter of intent to be a preferred walk-on at Wingate University next year, flanked by parents Desmond and Natalie Locklear in the Purnell Swett media center.
Wingate is coming off a 9-2 season that included a trip to the NCAA playoffs. The success was a positive for Locklear, but the homely feel of the program was the main draw to help him pick the Bulldogs over other schools.
“It felt like home, and I liked the coaches. It just felt like home,” he said. “The people there remind me everything of home. I like the coaches there and have a good feel there.”
Playing as the weak side defensive end for Purnell Swett, Locklear and fellow senior defensive end Kalan Locklear anchored the ends of the defensive line for a unit that competed against some of the top teams at the 4A level in conference play, as well as in non-conference play.
The Rams went 5-7 to claim the program’s first state playoff berth since 2011.
“I had fun. I enjoyed playing with my brothers and had a ball with them,” he said. “It was my senior year and I tried to give them everything I had.”
Purnell Swett coach Jon Sherman expects the same intensity and effort that Locklear showed during his senior year to carry over at the next level.
“He’s a really great kid that’s going to work his butt off every year that they have them,” he said. “He’s a great individual and a great defensive lineman.”
Coming in as a walk-on, Locklear already has his next goal in mind once he hits the practice field at Wingate this summer.
“I’m going to go there and bust my rump and give them everything I’ve got,” Locklear said. “I want to get a scholarship. I’ve got to go there and bust it and show them I deserve more playing time and more scholarship money.”
That same approach is what Sherman saw him bring during his final high school season, where Locklear finished with 83 total tackles and 15 tackles for loss, including five sacks.
“He really stepped it up this year. We had some rough points during the middle of the year and I challenged Kaelin saying, ‘Being who you are, you should dominate games,’” Sherman said. “He stepped up big times in games. He helped hold down our defensive line on the weak side.”
Red Springs’ Jerome Bass signed with the University in Charleston in West Virginia on Wednesday, but will have his signing ceremony next week.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.