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Why we care about Ricardo Lockette, a retired receiver with 22 career catches

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The Seahawks receiver got everything he wanted out of his career.

Ricardo Lockette also thought it was weird that he was having a press conference. He was a special teams ace and made as much as he could of his 22 career receptions as a Seattle Seahawk, but in the grand scheme he wasn't a particularly special player. Even by his own admission, "I don't think I'm big time or anything."

That isn't to say he wasn't unique. He lasted five seasons as an undrafted player from a Division II school, and would have played longer if not for the neck injury that ended his career. Few people have the Olympic-caliber speed that Lockette had. Even fewer people would spend four nights sleeping in their car after their last failed attempt at becoming a track star and pursue the NFL instead.

Most people worry about their future. Lockette seemingly never did. Ahead of the 2009 NCAA Division II national track championships he explained why he never could.

"I'm never nervous,"  he said. "It's just a fear of losing. I have a big fear of losing. I try to prepare well. If I'm extremely prepared, I have no fear."

Those last two words popped up like a refrain seven years later. During the press conference announcing the end of his athletic career, he says that without his family, "I would never been able have the courage to leave a small town -- Albany, Ga. -- with no fear."

Family motivated his athletic ambitions, too, and perhaps superseded any desire for personal glory all along. He admits that being out of football has been a blessing for how much time he can now spend with his kids. Retiring wasn't a hard decision, "because I love my family and I'd rather walk."

Lockette liked football, and he had about as impactful a career that any role player could have. He caught four touchdown passes -- nearly a fifth of his career receptions -- of which one was patently bananas. He was tough as hell, and not just for a "track guy." He leveled punt returners and could be a relentless blocker. He'll also leave ignominious legacies like a penchant for 15-yard penalties and one moment when he didn't fight quite as hard as Malcolm Butler for a Russell Wilson pass.

But the reason why Lockette got to have a press conference and we all paid attention isn't because he had to be fearless to make it this far or because of his on-field reputation -- not primarily. He came and stayed at the national forefront last season when Jeff Heath hit him hard during a kickoff return and he didn't get up. Lockette had to be stretchered off the field, and later learned that he might have died if he had stood up or if a teammate had tried to help him.

The injury highlighted a lot of good in a lot of people. Lockette's teammate, former roommate and close friend Doug Baldwin, was immediately by Lockette's side. Trainers worked efficiently to protect his vertebrae and potentially save his life. The Seahawks and Seattle embraced him and showered him with love upon his return to CenturyLink Field. Most importantly, Lockette's injury revealed who he is to a much broader audience. He says he wants to help whoever he can -- children, the homeless, victims of domestic violence -- now that football is over. Last season he bought 100 cheeseburgers and handed them out to the homeless when he left the hospital after surgery.

Football masks the individuals who play the sport. Helmets obscure their faces and fantasy football relegates their importance to a plop of numbers. It's gratifying that Lockette finally got a spotlight because so few players who fit his profile ever have, and because it reminds us what a damn miracle it is that anyone actually stays in the league against the competition and the violence. Lockette had to throw himself at his dream, and start and restart his career just to become a guy whose 451 career receiving yards are routinely topped by better players in just a few games.

You wouldn't dare tell Ricardo Lockette he wasn't great, and you couldn't convince him. He lived through and throughout those 22 receptions. Football was the embodiment of him. He got everything he wanted just out of the pregame.

The whole team is jumping and we in the middle, and you know -- you know, you know -- what's about to happen. We're about to go, we've been preparing for this all week and the 12th man is as loud as you can imagine. Hair standing up on my skin, chill bones, but there's no fear.

Those two words come back again. He repeats them in case anyone was still wondering who he is.

There's no fear.