As he guided Lee’s Summit through an amazing 10-2 season, Drew Lock rarely appeared anything but calm, cool and collected.
On the outside, anyway.
On the inside, Lock was feeling the pressure his junior year, not from being the quarterback of a very good Tigers team, but from the never-ending deluge of calls, letters and texts from big-time college football coaches. Not to mention the ones from basketball coaches who hoped the two-sport star would try his hand at hoops.
But that was last year. After announcing last April that he was committing to play football at Missouri after high school, the calls, letters and hounding have stopped. With those distractions gone, he’s ready to enjoy his senior season and keep his focus squarely on the field.
“This year it’s so much more relaxing,” Lock said. “It does really calm you down, you don’t have to worry about anything but the game and it’s been a really good time so far.”
Lock and the Tigers both raised their profiles last season. He threw for 3,062 yards and 35 touchdowns while leading a team that won three games the year before to the Class 6 District 4 championship game. Rivals.com made him a four-star recruit and ranked him No. 5 among pro-style quarterbacks.
As Lock’s profile grew, so did the distractions. And the pressure.
“That stress building on you while you’re trying to win games and do it for your team … it made it a difficult season,” Lock said. “You had to remind yourself that you’re in the game, don’t worry about anything else that’s outside of it.”
Austin Pace, a senior linebacker/running back, said he has noticed a difference in his old friend compared to last season. He’s not only more relaxed, Pace said, but he seems even more dialed in.
“Drew’s been my best friend forever, so I know everything that’s going on in his life,” Pace said. “He’s actually relieved that the process is over and he can focus more on our team, and it shows.”
Lee’s Summit coach Eric Thomas, who never thought the recruiting pressure affected Lock on the field, hasn’t seen a dramatic difference in his quarterback. He’s still the same Drew, Thomas said, only with a little more seasoning.
“He’s still loose, he’s still relaxed,” Thomas said. “Obviously, he has more confidence than he had at this time last year.”
One big confidence boost came last month when Lock was invited to participate in the Elite 11, a weeklong camp and competition for top high school quarterback prospects at Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. While there, Lock got to play in front of some of the top coaches and quarterbacks in the nation, including Cleveland Browns rookie and former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel.
He’ll even get to be on TV: ESPNU is airing a show about the camp at 8 p.m. on Aug. 17.
“It was probably one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” Lock said. “It really held true to what people talked it up to be. They said it was going to be a tough week, they’re going to test me mentally and physically and they really did.”
But that was over a month ago, and Lock has put it behind him, just as he did with all the recruiting hoopla and other distractions. While he isn’t looking back, he isn’t looking ahead either.
“There’s guys on this team that are counting on you to perform and play to the best of your ability and not think about the future, which is hard not to,” Lock said. “The University of Missouri is going to be an exciting place, and I can’t be more happy to be going there.”
For now, Lock is just happy to be a Lee’s Summit Tiger. As a Division-I commit and one of the best quarterbacks in the Kansas City area, he’s still going to feel the glare of the spotlight. Still, it’s going to be more relaxing.
“He seems a lot less stressed and he can put all the focus on our team,” Pace said.