At 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Southeast linebacker Jon Locke isn’t your average sack master.
But Locke has two attributes that help his performance on the field: he’s smart and he’s a two-time state wrestling qualifier.
The footwork and leverage techniques gained from the wrestling mat in the winter have Locke outmuscling opposing offensive linemen this season.
He has 93 tackles, 26 for a loss, three forced fumbles, seven sacks and eight quarterback hurries.
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“What wrestling has helped me with is balance,” Locke said. “I remember one of my sacks I got against (Sarasota) Booker, the guy completely knocked me off my balance. ... I was completely sideways in the hole and I was able to sort of hop through the hole and get the sack.”
Locke, a senior, isn’t strictly focusing on football this fall, though, as the Seminoles prepare for their Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal at Fort Myers Dunbar on Friday.
Rather, Locke is juggling an immense course load as part of the International Baccalaureate program.
This week, for example, Locke took an English test on Hamlet on Monday, has a biology test upcoming on Thursday and must complete the IB’s internal assessment, which is a 1,500-word written assignment on a topic of his choosing, by the end of the week.
In between, he’s prepping for a Dunbar team that knocked the Noles out of last year’s playoffs.
Locke said his first love is football, but his goal is pre-med, and his dream school is Ohio State.
Accompanied by his adoptive mother, Connie, prior to last Friday’s rivalry game with Manatee, Jon Locke joined the Hurricanes’ Zachary Reeves as Great American Rivalry Series student-athletes, awarded to each school’s football player with the highest grade-point average.
“When I ask him what (he) did over the weekend, the answer is always homework,” said Southeast head coach Rashad West.
Locke’s journey to the IB program started in the fifth grade when he attended Williams Elementary in Parrish. It was the third quarter of the school year, when he learned of the IB program.
The middle school that offered such academics was Johnson Middle in Bradenton.
The next step after Johnson Middle is Southeast High.
So, Locke choiced into Southeast for the IB program, and it’s become an invaluable asset in his progression through high school.
“Even at Williams, I was (in the) gifted program, so higher academics and all that,” Locke said. “(My parents) sort of pushed me once they found out from people that they knew about what IB was.”
Locke’s one of two Southeast football players this fall studying in the IB program. The other is junior linebacker Zach Hughes.
And he’s one of several Seminoles that also wrestle in the winter, included USF commit Darrien Grant.
“Play all you can, because this is the only time you can in life,” West said. “Once high school is over, then you have time to specialize. But really everything. There’s so many things you can learn in other sports that carry over. ... Toughness is one thing. And (Locke) plays with a lot of toughness.”
In addition to the academics, Locke’s persevered through getting uprooted when he was a toddler. When he was 3 years old, Locke found his way into Connie Locke’s home alongside his older half-sister.
And Locke still remembers the day things changed pretty vividly.
“I woke up one morning, we had this two-story house,” Locke said. “And the main thing I can remember is getting up out of my red race car bed. ... Getting up and being like, ‘Oh no, where is everything?’ And it wasn’t there. My mom wasn’t there. And I ran around to look for her. Ran around the house, came back and got my sister. And then we went outside to the driveway and at the end of the driveway were cops that sort of explained a bit what was happening, and then we went with them.”
Locke said his mother had legal troubles, which is why he was sent to foster care at the age of 1 1/2. His biological mother attended the Southeast-Manatee game last Friday at John Kiker Memorial Stadium in the first step in building a relationship with each other.
“She’s been having some health issues, so she hasn’t been able to meet me, yet,” Locke said. “... It’s a big step, but it has to happen. It feels like it’s destined to happen.”
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Manatee at Orlando Dr. Phillips
Braden River/Naples Gulf Coast
Southeast at Fort Myers Dunbar
Cardinal Mooney/Melbourne CC
Saturday, 7 p.m.
Saint Stephen’s at Seven Rivers Christian