It’s hard for Maryland football coach Mike Locksley to contain the joy he has about his daughter Kori, who will be a graduate transfer on the Terps women’s soccer team after four seasons at Auburn.
Maybe it’s because Locksley can easily slide over to Ludwig Field to watch her games instead of him and his wife, Kia, enduring hours of flying and driving. Maybe it’s because she will be representing the school he has been coaching at for the past two years after first joining the staff in 1997 as an assistant.
If you ask Kori, she will immediately tell you that she’s just happy to be at home.
“My family is here,” said Kori, a Silver Spring native who played for Good Counsel and McDonogh in high school. “I’ve been so far away from them and it was hard for them to get out to watch my game.”
The rumblings about Kori deciding to come to Maryland started after Auburn concluded its spring season, in which she played a career-high 1,083 minutes and scored two game-winning goals as the Tigers (10-5-3) fell just short of reaching the NCAA tournament. Kori was debating whether to stay at Auburn for the fifth year or explore her options.
Kori ultimately decided to enter the transfer portal and was contacted by a few schools. But, being back home in a diverse setting after a year in isolation because of the pandemic became one of the deciding factors.
“I’m a homebody,” Kori said. “The diversity within the state of Maryland, and I feel like the university [and] the soccer team is so diverse compared to down south.”
The bond Kori shares with Locksley and the rest of her family is strong. Watching her dad get up early and come home late because of coaching instilled a superior work ethic. Playing various sports such as karate, baseball, basketball and soccer with her three brothers, Mike Jr., Meiko and Kai, allowed Kori to forge her competitive spirit. And observing Kia run the house and manage four kids playing sports gave Kori her strength.
Ultimately, Kori’s family was instrumental in developing her mental toughness, which allowed her to get through a tough freshman year where she suffered an ACL injury around the same time Meiko was shot and killed in Columbia in 2017.
“There were very challenging times,” Locksley said. “In her first year in college, she [tore] her ACL, and within a week after that, her brother was tragically killed. We as a family had to bury him then she had surgery. I was concerned.”
Kori described that year as being a blur. From her brother’s death to not playing soccer for the first time since she was 4 years old, everything was happening in an instant. There were constant phone calls and text messages between Kori and Locksley, encouraging her to focus on the present and take care of herself mentally.
“Tomorrow’s not promised,” Kori said. “So you need to give whatever you are doing all that you got. That’s something that he instilled in me.”
Whenever Locksley would attend Kori’s soccer games growing up, he would be quiet and observe. He wouldn’t scream or argue with the referees. He wanted to make sure Kori had the spotlight.
“I want it to be about her,” Locksley said. “If you’re a coach at Maryland, and you go sit in the stands, people want to talk to you about Maryland. For me, I’m going there because I want to have a chance to see her play.”
Locksley would get a kick out of the phrases players and coaches would say during games.
“Her youth soccer up through high school, they have this term where they yell ‘unlucky’ when they miss the ball. I’m like, ‘What do you mean?’” Locksley laughed.
Locksley admits he doesn’t know the ins and outs of soccer, but he’s amazed by the speed and how the players can run all over the field for 90 minutes. It’s one of the reasons Locksley deemed Kori the best athlete in the house over her brothers, who each played Division I football. Kai, the youngest boy, a former quarterback at UTEP, Iowa Western and Texas and high school star at Gilman, is trying to make the Miami Dolphins as a wide receiver.
“My sons hated when I said it,” Locksley said. “Imagine playing football nonstop the whole game. There is no huddle. There is no taking a break. I mean, it is like constant running.”
Kori doesn’t shy away from that honor, saying confidently, “I feel like I could pick up pretty much any sport if I tried. I don’t think they could.”
When Locksley is at Ludwig Field this fall, watching Kori play, don’t talk to him about football because he will quickly let you know that his daughter is the center of attention.