With Veteran’s Day yesterday, many turned to military service members to show gratitude for sacrifices made and the willingness for even more, when the time comes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust was a part of one such message of appreciation, as she teamed up with USAA, ahead of Salute to Service games across the National Football League.
For #VeteransDay & #SaluteToService, Military Veterans Yencris Baez and Vanessa Thomas, join @NFL Coaches @CoachLoLoc & @JenniferKing5 to talk about what it means to be Women of First in the #military and the NFL. #HonorThroughAction #SeeHer pic.twitter.com/bO7zaNRHyB— USAA (@USAA) November 9, 2021
“It was an incredible experience,” coach Locust said about working with USAA on the project along with Washington Football Team assistant running back coach Jennifer King and women Veterans Yencris Baez and Jennifer Thomas. “Those women have made incredible strides and have gotten over a lot of obstacles.”
In a lot of ways, the obstacles in the way towards a goal are what make reaching the finish line worth the journey.
For Locust, her story has been told several times and will continue to be shared because of its uniqueness, and success.
The first woman to be hired as a full-time coach in the NFL, the label of trailblazer has been attached to her for a while now. As much as she didn’t ask for it, she embraces it all the same, because she’s earned it.
“From a coaching standpoint, and the military is probably the same way, but it’s not for everybody,” Locust said. “You really have to understand that this is not something where you can snap your fingers and just be in the NFL...it takes a lot of time...hard work...commitment...it takes a lot of sacrifice.”
Locust’s path isn’t a traditional one, and it’s made people uncomfortable at times. But through it all she maintains her sense of self and authenticity. This is important, because when players like Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, and William Gholston - to name a few - sense you aren’t who you present yourself to be, it makes leading them more difficult than coaching in the NFL already can be.
In a game where violence is the main ingredient and emotions are hard to keep in check, the ups and downs of a season can be inspiring or debilitating.
The last time we saw the Buccaneers on the field of play, they were losing their second game of the season behind eleven penalties. Some deserved, others not as much.
Either way, this weekend’s matchup against the Washington Football Team serves as an opportunity to correct some of those mistakes and get back on track. More emotions to leverage for success, and keep contained to prevent them from hurting the team.
“You think about it as a marathon and not a sprint,” said Locust. “You’re trying to hold back enough energy to burst through the finish line, and I think that there’s always that undercurrent of just raw emotion because you don’t want to over coach a defensive line. But we also have to know how to play within the scheme...and also the game plan itself.”
The next leg of the marathon goes through Landover, Maryland in Week 10 against the Washington Football Team where Locust’s defensive line will be pitted up against quarterback Taylor Heinicke and running backs Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and Jaret Patterson.
Those backs for Washington, just so happen to be coached by assistant running back coach, and Locust’s good friend, Jennifer King.
“I don’t think that we can underestimate any opponent,” Locust said. “The tendencies of the backs have been made pretty clear by film study, so the guys are prepared for that. We also have to watch how this quarterback has a tendency to make plays with his feet...and that’s certainly an extension of their run game. The use of McKissic in the screen game is an extension of the run game as well...they’re very effective in what they do.”
King and Locust are both more than the stories told about them, and their teams lean on them to set the players up for the best chances at success possible.
The two friends won’t talk a lot about ball, but will meet pregame to exchange some customary niceties Locust told me. And they can get back to discussing the game that helped bring them together, Sunday night. After their time as opponents has passed.