MOBILE, Ala. – During the fall of 2013, Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall and assistant Steve Forbes made an unusual recruiting visit. They stopped at Lee’s Summit High School in the suburbs of Kansas City to watch a football practice.
The Shockers coaching staff had become smitten with a wing player named Drew Lock, who was in his junior season. Neither Forbes nor Marshall have more experience scouting football than with their remote controls, but both quickly realized they were wasting their time.
“I’m no Mel Kiper Jr., but I watched him throw a missile like 40 yards,” Forbes recalled with a laugh in a recent phone interview. “I’m like, ‘This boy ain’t playing no basketball.’ ”
He walked back up from the practice field where Marshall was chatting with the Lee’s Summit basketball coach. He told Marshall they should leave. Marshall was perplexed, until he went down and saw the same thing.
In Wichita basketball lore, Marshall declared after watching a few spirals: “He throws like Brady.” Marshall didn’t remember the comparison, but knew that Lock was a lock to play football.
“I knew the way the ball came out of his hand,” Marshall told Yahoo Sports, “that he’d be tossing a pigskin.”
Lock committed to play football at Missouri a few months later, a wise decision that led to him being a four-year starter, three-year captain and setting the SEC single-season record with 44 touchdown passes as a junior. But his high-level basketball background has resurfaced at the Senior Bowl this week. It’s a trait that scouts adore about his background, as it’s often the first thing they mention about his background.
“It really made me the athlete that I am today,” Lock said about his basketball background in Mobile this week. “As far as seeing the court, it’s kind of the same thing. You have to see the football field and be a facilitator.”
Lock finds himself amid a compelling quarterback derby this week at the Senior Bowl. With nine quarterbacks here showcasing themselves in front of the scouting staffs of the 32 NFL teams, he’s considered a strong candidate to solidify himself further as a first-round pick. He’s playing for Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who has three first-round picks and an established affinity for new blood.
Helping his first-round cause are his years playing for KC Run GMC, a top Kansas City based AAU program. He competed against Phoenix Suns former No. 4 pick Josh Jackson and Oklahoma City’s Terrance Ferguson, another first-round pick. At Lee’s Summit he averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and didn’t enroll early at Missouri in order to finish his high school hoops career.
How good of a baller was he? He reminded former Shocker assistant Chris Jans of Ron Baker, the former Wichita star who led the team to the Final Four and played for the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards in the NBA. Lock didn’t display overwhelming athleticism, but he showed an innate presence on the court that impressed those who evaluated him in hoops.
“I loved the way he moved,” said Jans, now the coach at New Mexico State. “Just his instincts and the way he carried himself on the court and the ability and understanding the little things that are so hard to teach. His skill level wasn’t over the top. His body, mind and feel [stood out]. In the recruiter’s mind, once he picks a sport, his skill level will shoot through the room because of time allocation. It was the early stages of it.”
Lock chose to fully concentrate on football before he fully bloomed as a basketball prospect. But he’d already developed a reputation on the circuit. Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi tabbed him as a potential Top 150 player if he’d stuck with the sport. He recalled a “lights-out jump shooter” who delivered toughness from the two-guard spot. “He was one of those guys that felt like he was in range as soon as he crossed half-court,” Bossi said.
Lock said this week in Mobile that it was “super hard” to give up basketball, in part because he enjoyed his AAU teammates so much. He rattled of Jimmy Whitt, SMU’s second leading scorer, Missouri starter Kevin Puryear and Missouri State’s Ryan Kreklow and Jarred Dixon.
“We didn’t have the top 50 or 25 guys,” Lock said. “But we were all really close and grew up playing together. It was like, ‘Holy Cow, we grew up playing together, we have a top team in the country and we’re all from Kansas City.’ ”
Lock showed a comfort and self-deprecation that separated himself from the other Senior Bowl quarterbacks in the media availability. While Duke’s Daniel Jones came off as quiet and withdrawn, Lock poked fun at himself with ease. That included pointing out that scouts knew that he’d cheated on a geometry test in his freshman year of high school. (He referenced geometric proofs, and the assembled media nodded with empathy). He referenced his awkward running gait to looking like “Gumby.” He needled his own skinny frame, saying if he were buff he’d walk around with his shirt off. “That’s why I’m wearing a jacket today.”
He came off as genuine and comfortable in the environment. That’s something that could be attributed to being intimidated in basketball for years, as he joked about his parents dealing with him crying about having to go to practice.
“I didn’t want to get bumped around by some eighth graders when I still had no hair on my armpits as a seventh grader,” he said with a smile.
The scouts are infatuated with the basketball background for a few reasons. It shows his mobility and athleticism. But it also reveals he can blend in a team environment, lead and showcase toughness.
“We played against a lot of good guys,” Lock said. “That competitive spirit that [comes] in football, you had to bring it out on the court when you’re playing guys who are the best in the country and making a lot of money doing it. I’m trying to go play a different sport and make a lot of money doing it.”
And his old sport is something that’s going to help him as he auditions for his new one.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Coach Reid: Chiefs star wasn’t warned he was offside
• NFL investigating alleged laser incident involving Brady
• Soccer star was on missing plane, no survivors expected
• Saints’ Thomas calls for do-over of controversial NFC game