Lock's road back to Gonzales tinged with tragedy

Ricky Locke returned to Gonzales a year ago after coaching in Gainesville, after the anguish of his wife dying of cancer. He and his son, Landon, an all-state linebacker with D-I college prospects, keep their spirits high despite the loss of a mother and a wife. He had coached in Gonzales for a while before leaving for Gainesville. FRANK TILLEY/FTILLEY@VICAD.COM
  • Ricky Lock Coaching Career

  • Assistant: Bartlett, Rusk, Houston North Shore, Huntsville

    Head Coach: (15 seasons) Runge, Elgin, Woodville, Gonzales, Gainesville, Gonzales

    Record: 98-64

    Playoff Appearances: 10, 3 quarterfinals

GONZALES - Ricky Lock has a job he loves, healthy and vibrant children, supportive friends and co-workers, and relatives minutes away.

But as he sits at his desk in the Gonzales field house preparing for football practice, it's clear that more than the bug he's fighting is the reason for the catch in his voice.

"Kiana was a big part of our family," Lock says. "It was really tough on all of us."

Kiana Lock was a mother, teacher and, most of all, Lock's confidant as he moved around the state from one coaching job to another.

Kiana was instrumental in Lock coming to Gonzales from Woodville in 2007.

Her parents lived up the road in Martindale, their oldest daughter, Lauren, was beginning school at Texas A&M, and the family was anxious to return to South Texas where he had coached at Runge and Elgin.

Lock first's season at Gonzales surpassed expectations. He led the Apaches into the quarterfinals before they finished with a 10-2 record.

But success brings opportunity, as Lock discovered when he was approached in the Gonzales weight room by a brother of a former coaching colleague, who was the superintendent in Gainesville.

"I was offered the job five different times and turned it down," Lock says. "We didn't want to leave. We wanted the kids around their grandparents.

"At that time there was a whole lot of money that was being thrown around. I never got in this for the money, but my wife said we probably need to look at it if they're going to offer that."

Lock took over a Gainesville program that had fallen from a state championship to disarray. The team went 2-8 in its first season under Lock.

Lock put the team through offseason drills and was preparing for summer conditioning workouts when his life changed on a warm afternoon in June.

"It was like a train wreck," Lock says. "She was out by the swimming pool one day and had a bunch of bruises on her leg. I told her she needed to get that looked at.

"She went to get it looked at and her platelets were low and her white-cell blood count was real low. We were already into Stage 4 (leukemia) and we didn't even know it. She had a high-pain tolerance, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. It's just the way it took place."

Lock took Kiana to Dallas on Friday, and Sunday she died at the age of 44.

Lock promised the Gainesville superintendent he would stay for at least another year.

He had done the same so Lauren could graduate from Woodville after his mother died of brain cancer.

Gainesville went 5-5 in 2009 and Landon Lock became an all-state linebacker as a sophomore.

"I was in a bad way there," Ricky Lock says. "I didn't know if I could coach that year. Coaching probably saved me that year.

"I put a lot into it. We weren't very talented. We ended up pretty good. We would have probably had a chance to make the playoffs, but our running back, who's at Oklahoma State now, tore up his knee. I put a lot into that and the kids."

Lock believed Gainesville was ready to turn the corner, but jumped at the opportunity to return to Gonzales in 2010.

"Kiana and I talked about it if it ever came open again coming back," says Lock, who rented his house in Gonzales when he went to Gainesville. "We were happy here and she told me she wanted the kids here, and I told her I would do everything I could if the opportunity ever came to get them here because that's what she wanted and that's what we both wanted."

The program Lock inherited at Gonzales was much different than the one he left. The Apaches went 4-16 in the two years he was gone.

"It was like a bomb had gone off," Lock says. "I watch film, and I just can't believe it was the same kids playing. Landon was in eighth grade when we left and that class was undefeated.

"I think it was just the structure. I think a good athletic program is based on strength and speed and mental toughness. I think that was the thing that was lacking when we came back."

Lock set about rebuilding the football program along with his life, which includes taking care of Landon, a senior, and daughter, Laci, a junior.

"It was two years ago that it happened," Landon says. "Ever since that we've had to pull a little bit more together to get things the way they should be."

Ricky Lock refuses to say he has mellowed, but admits to being more aware of his players' needs.

"I think you're a lot more understanding of family matters," he says. "When things happen to players that you coach, it's a lot different mind set because you understand, you've been through it."

The Apaches went 7-3 last season, but finished fourth in District 28-3A and missed the playoffs.

Gonzales will take a 4-0 record into Friday's district opener against Yoakum at Apache Stadium.

Landon has every intention of making his senior season a special one for Gonzales and the Lock family.

"I know she'll always be watching my games," Landon says. "I try to make her proud every time I step on the football field. I'm playing for the name on the back of my jersey, I'm playing for her, and I'm playing for the team on the front of my jersey."

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361- 580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.