RENTON — For years, Tyler Lockett has been changing lives of children and the disadvantaged from Oklahoma to Washington.
Now he's helping school kids in the shadow of Seahawks headquarters.
The Seahawks' co-captain is their nominee for the 2022 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, for the second consecutive year. Last month Lockett teamed up with former Seattle All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, now with the Los Angeles Rams, to pay off all delinquent student lunch accounts in the Renton School District.
Lockett, 30, said he asked Wagner a few weeks ago about paying off the students' debts. He knew Wagner had paid off overdue lunch accounts in Renton's schools in recent years, when he was still playing for Seattle.
The team released Wagner in March, to save $16 million in salary-cap space for 2022.
"I reached out to him and asked him, because I'd heard of some of the stuff he did," Lockett said of Wagner, who just had one of the best games of his 11-year career last weekend while chirping at Lockett and vice versa in the Seahawks' 27-23 win over the Rams in suburban Los Angeles.
"It was really cool, and we ended up kind of splitting it," Lockett, a native of Tulsa, said. "We paid some delinquencies for (lunches). That was something that I learned from him."
Wagner, 32, was the Seahawks' nominee for NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2019.
Lockett is the first back-to-back winner of Seahawks man of the year since Jon Kitna in 1999 and 2000.
"Bobby's like a big brother. He's really an all-around dude," Lockett said. "I really look up to him.
"It was really cool to see what he does. I know he does a lot giving back, in his free time, that people don't even know about.
"But when I was able to learn about that (paying off students' lunch debts) and he was able to walk me through and put me in touch with the people to do that, it was really cool to be able to do that out here in Seattle."
The person Wagner got Lockett in touch with was Randy Matheson.
Matheson is the executive director of community relations for the Renton School District. He told The News Tribune Wednesday the district had fewer delinquent accounts than in many years, dozens instead of hundreds, because it has been able to fund more student lunch accounts this academic year through COVID-related federal subsidies.
Matheson said Lockett and Wagner paid for the overdue accounts of students who are not on free or reduced-fee lunch programs.
Matheson said Wagner has paid off student lunch accounts for Renton's students at least two other times previously.
Lockett knew that. That's why he approached Wagner last month about going in with him in doing it again.
Lockett said he worked last month with Seahawks vice president for player engagement Maurice Kelly and Mario Bailey, the former University of Washington wide receiver, now the Seahawks' director of legends and player engagement, to immediately help kids in the Seattle-Tacoma area. They got him in touch with Wagner. From Los Angeles, Wagner got Lockett connected with Matheson.
Matheson said all it took was one phone call a couple weeks ago for coordination, then a wire transfer of money from Wagner and Lockett, and — presto! — students who had delinquent lunch accounts hanging over them did not anymore.
"Within a day the entire debt was paid off," Matheson said.
"Absolutely, it's something our families, regardless of financial status, appreciate," Matheson said. "To be able to have Mr. Wagner and Mr. Lockett help our students and families is greatly appreciated."
Lockett didn't need Wagner to come up with the idea of giving.
He thrives doing it himself.
Lockett was the 2021 winner of the Steve Largent Award, given to the Seahawks player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication, and integrity of the team. Lockett was also Seattle's winner of the 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
This summer teammates voted him a captain for the first time in his eight-year NFL career, all with Seattle.
Lockett has started a college scholarship program. He selected seven students to receive $34,000 in scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year. Scholarship winners have been admitted to Tennessee State University, Wichita State University, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, Oral Roberts University and Tulsa Community College in Lockett's hometown.
In June he hosted 12 Tulsa Public School students in Seattle as part of his "I know I can" job-shadow program. He organized students to participate in three days of observing jobs at with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, Keller Williams Realty and the Seahawks. Participating students got a $5,000 scholarship, for a total of $60,000 Lockett gave for that.
But wait, there's more.
Lockett's Light It Up foundation donated more than $32,000 in clothing, shoes and food to the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless in 2021.
Lockett and his foundation have a Youth Sports Leadership initiative. He identifies youth sports organizations to which he donates clothing, funding and leadership training. This year, Lockett picked three sports organizations in Oklahoma that received $21,000 in adidas uniforms and funding.
Lockett partners with Kansas State University, his alma mater where he broke his father's receiving records. This year he gave $10,000 to the Wildcats' football team to start a data-tracking system for players to help measure and manage workload and distance run in practices and games.
Lockett donated $6,000 this year to support Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Tulsa's only nonprofit agency that provides comprehensive intervention and prevention services to men, women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence.
Since 2017, Lockett has hosted his annual Youth Football ProCamps in Seattle and Oklahoma. More than 300 kids come to each of his camps each year for two days of skill training from the Seahawks wide receiver and others.
"Man, it was just pretty cool to see the kids' faces," Lockett said of all he's done recently off the field.
"The biggest thing for me just being nominated, it always balances out everything the NFL stands for in football. We talk about how much of a business it is. It makes you somewhat have to be selfish sometimes, because you've got to look out for yourself. ...Being able to be selected (for this award), you start to take a step back and see the bigger picture, how a lot of this stuff in football is to be able to get you a head start in life.
"When you get that head start, you've got a chance to get other people head starts."
Lockett thanks his family for managing a lot of foundation's work.
"I like giving back," he said. "But I don't like people knowing that I give back. I'd rather just do it, and not get the pat on the back...I'd rather my family get that than me.
"I just don't want all of my giving to be all about me."