Mike Locksley can relate to the game of football as a way of life, because neither one has been easy for him.
Inner-city D.C. A struggle to simply survive, let alone find a way out. A not-so-nice neighborhood, and sports the only outlet for youngsters trying to grow up.
"I had a lot of adversity," Locksley, a senior and two-year starter in the Towson State secondary, was saying yesterday.
"You did whatever you could, cut the corners, anything, to get ahead. Nothing ever came easy. It was like that at home and like that when I came to Towson.
"I was small and skinny -- the guys teased me and called me 'Manute' -- and I had to fight to prove my point. I never lifted weights in high school -- my school [Ballou] didn't have much -- and I was 6-2 and 175 when I came to college."
At Towson State, there was a redshirt season, a couple of years of sharing time -- first at safety and then cornerback -- and then last year, when Aaron Bates went down with a knee injury, a home at free safety.
The final college season for Locksley, now bulked up all the way to 191 pounds, and his fellow senior defensive backs, Justin Harper and Keith Williams, has been an up-and-down one. And now the unit, which has junior Julian Blair as the other starter, has a chance to go out in style.
On Saturday, for the second straight year, the Tigers will be at home with an opportunity to upset Youngstown State, a Division I-AA playoff team the last three years and four of the last five.
It will be the final game of the season for Towson State (1-9), while Youngstown (7-3) will come in ranked No. 14 and bidding to move up with an impressive victory.
"That's the way it was last year. They were unbeaten and you could tell they weren't enthusiastic about playing us. They just wanted to pick up a 'W' and leave," Locksley recalled.
"I remember it vividly. We were trying our best to salvage a season and our goal was to upset them." The Penguins got a touchdown and two field goals for a bruising 13-0 triumph, a game in which Locksley had five tackles.
"Now, it's our goal again -- to upset them. That would make it a positive season for the team."
Positive years, making something of himself, is what Mike Locksley is about. He will graduate in May with a degree in marketing, and is interested in coaching at the college level.
"I want to put D.C. behind me; it's a trap. Not just Washington, but all inner cities. I want to get out and coach, but I'd go back to the cities and show the people there is a way out.
"A lot of guys in my neighborhood were good athletes, they just never got a chance. Sports are a way out, but the kids need direction, need counseling. I can use my experiences. I've seen both sides.
"You're competitive by the time you are eight or nine and there is all the peer pressure. You can't not be an athlete -- all you do is play games and run around."
Early in his Towson State career, he was a backup to Brian Hall, a veteran defensive back. "He taught me a lot, and now I've been working with Marcellus Campbell, treating him like a son, teaching him."
Having a "son" is not new to Locksley, because he became a father his sophomore year at Towson, and mother and son -- as well as Locksley's own mother -- come over from Washington for the games.
Ohio State at Michigan, chs. 13 7
Duke at North Carolina, Ch. 45
Virginia Tech at Virginia, Ch. 50
Tennessee at Kentucky, TBS
Houston at Texas Christian, HTS
California at Stanford, chs 13 7
West Virginia at Syracuse, ESPN
Miami at Boston College, ESPN
Alcorn State at Jackson State, BET