“Ain’t easy being from Daytona”: How Three-Star Commit Theodore Lockley Connected With Illini's Keynodo Hudson

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Theodore Lockley knew he felt comfortable with the coaching staff at Illinois for the first few minutes of the first phone call with Illini cornerbacks coach Keynodo Hudson.

The talk had nothing to do with football.

“It wasn’t a call to offer me and it wasn’t really even a call to talk about football,” Lockley said in an interview with Illini Now/Sports Illustrated. “It was a call about where I’m from. It was about Daytona. (Hudson) knows what it's like to grow up here. He understands. I was able to talk to him about all of it. It ain’t easy coming from here. It ain’t ever easy in Daytona.”

Lockley became the ninth verbal pledge of the Illinois 2021 recruiting class on Friday afternoon and of those nine total commitments, five currently reside in the state of Florida.

Lockley, a 6-foot and 175-pound athlete, comes from the high school (Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla.) where Hudson served as a defensive coordinator from 2009-11. Both people on that first phone call in early April knew all about the history that has led to Daytona consistently having one of the highest crime and violent crime rates in the state of Florida. The overall chance of becoming a victim of crime in Daytona Beach, which has a city population of just over 61,000 and a metro population of 609,939 is one in every 13 people.

“Just look at all the gun violence that has been around us and that just followed this (COVID-19) pandemic so like I said, it ain’t easy in Daytona,” Lockley said. “But I think I’ve done a good job of doing the right things, focusing on what is important and not getting distracted in all of that.”

In just the last few weeks, the Daytona Beach community has been ravaged by gun violence as six people were wounded in a shooting as large crowds gathered during Memorial Day weekend.

The shooting incident on Memorial Day weekend was just days apart from an armed carjacking incident resulting in an officer shooting a suspect six times. According to the Daytona Beach police department website, the suspect was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center for treatment after officers placed him in handcuffs. According to Daytona Beach Police Department Chief Craig Capri, the suspect underwent surgery and is expected to recover from his injuries.

Lockley said he was able to talk to Hudson about incidents in his life including his father going to prison when he was just eight years old and how his mother, Angela Johnson, has been the most consistent adult figure in his life.

“My stepdad came around when I was 11 or 12 but mostly it’s just been me and my mom,” Lockley said. “My dad isn’t supposed to get out of jail until my freshman year of college and I hope to have a relationship with him then.”

Lockley’s mother came home Friday afternoon during her lunch break from her job inside a local doctor’s office to watch his son verbally commit to the Illini program in a live announcement on Instagram.

My mom has always supported me with everything,” Lockley said. “She supports this decision. She’s actually happy I’m getting out of this area after everything that is happening.”

Lockley can be added to a list of prospects that have had their college recruitment affected by the coronavirus epidemic. The 170-pound athlete said he’d taken phone calls from bigger in-state programs such as Florida, Florida State and UCF but none of them were ready to offer a prospect they’d never seen live in a camp or workout due to the mass COVID-19 shutdowns.

“I think the pandemic forced me to think about other schools that wouldn’t normally have been in it for me,” Lockley said. “But I’m very happy with my decision to commit to Illinois but I had a lot of programs tell me they didn’t want to offer me without seeing me live. I didn’t get my first offer until January and that was Kansas.”

Shortly after committing to Illinois, Lockley told Illini Now/SI that he told several members of the Illini coaching staff of his decision nearly a month ago on a Zoom video conference call. The Zoom video conference call included Illinois head coach Lovie Smith.

“I announced it on Zoom with like 12 coaches on there and they all went crazy,” Lockley said. “That whole staff has made me feel like I’m wanted.”

On the football field, Lockley is listed by 247Sports.com as an athlete and the Illini newest verbal commit said the coaching staff hasn’t indicated to him exactly where they want him to play at the college level.

“I spoke with (Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith) and he said I could fit with them either at receiver or on defense,” Lockley said. “They’re telling me I’m being recruited as an athlete so wherever they eventually want me is where I’ll be.”

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Welcome to the Illini family young man. Looking forward to your career in Champaign.