In the battle for playing time among 49ers wide receivers in training camp, Ricardo Lockette has an edge others don’t: a very tight friendship with quarterback Colin Kaepernick that dates from well before Kaepernick ever became the team’s starter.
Lockette told the Albany (Ga.) Herald this past weekend that he and Kaepernick hit it off immediately at the 2011 NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
“The first time we met was at the NFL Combine, and I was like, ‘Man, you can throw,’ ” Lockette told the paper. “Then he was like, ‘Man, you are fast.’ When I texted him last year and told him I was on my way to San Fran (signed as a free agent), he got really excited. When we saw each other we had this big hug like we grew up with each other.”
Lockette has battled the odds since coming out of Div. II Fort Valley State as an undrafted free agent. He signed with the Seahawks and played sparingly, making two catches in 2011. But when Seattle released him in mid September of 2012, the 49ers signed him and he spent most of 2012 on the practice squad.
Now, with No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree likely out for the entire 2013 season with an Achilles’ tendon tear, Lockette is in a competition with A.J. Jenkins and Quinton Patton, among others, for a spot opposite veteran Anquan Boldin.
His chemistry with Kaepernick could play a big role. The two have lived together in San Francisco and trained together this offseason in Georgia. Lockette says they play video games together, train together and compete against each in all sorts of ways.
“The way he breaks down plays and just working one-on-one with him, it’s made me a different receiver,” Lockette told the Herald. “It’s like night and day just learning the playbook from someone you can totally relate to.”
Lockette, a former NCAA Div. II national champion in the 200 meters, has the speed and size (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) to fit the mold of an NFL receiver, but he just needs to be consistent and make plays this summer to earn playing time.
At the 2011 Combine, he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, tied for the fastest time in the class.
Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh said during workouts this spring that, “I can’t wait to see what he does. A real inflection point for him is coming.”
“I am just trying to step up,” Lockette told the Herald. “We have a couple of guys battling for Crabtree’s spot. My job is to make the decision easy for them, and I plan on doing that.”
The chemistry between Kaepernick and Lockette could prove to be a deciding factor.
“It’s almost like you go somewhere and you realize someone is your cousin, and since we met we have been inseparable,” says Lockette.