Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley was named Tuesday as the winner of the Broyles Award, which is presented to the nation’s top assistant football coach.
The honor caps a stunning rise for a man whose career was derailed not too long ago.
In 2016, Locksley came to Alabama as an offensive analyst after he wasn’t retained by Maryland following a stint as the Terrapins’ interim coach.
He entered what he termed Tuesday as “the Nick Saban witness protection program.”
“I was out of a job,” he told the audience at the award ceremony. “I had just left the University of Maryland as the offensive coordinator. I was kind of in between what I wanted to do and I decided, man you know what, Lane Kiffin went there and I know Steve Sarkisian, a bunch of coaches who had been head coaches went behind the curtains of the Alabama storied football program, and boy what an honor it has been and how great has it been for me and my career to be able to rehabilitate it.”
Now, he becomes only the second Alabama assistant to claim the Broyles Award and the first since former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart won it in 2009.
“Working at the University of Alabama — what a tremendous opportunity,” Locksley said before he was recognized.
Locksley was promoted to wide receivers coach in 2017 and then offensive coordinator this past January after his predecessor, Brian Daboll, moved on to the Buffalo Bills. As he climbed the ladder at Alabama, he faced his share of personal adversity. Locksley’s son, Meiko, was shot and killed in September 2017.
Despite the grief he felt, he forged ahead. And months later he was presented with a great opportunity when he was handed a unit stocked with five-star talent powered by eventual Heisman Trophy finalist Tua Tagovailoa. In short order, Locksley helped transform the Crimson Tide — adding more pop and sizzle to a scheme that used to be predicated on muscle.
A team once defined by its defense now torched its opponents through the air, bombarding them with quick strikes. As the Tide rolled to a 13-0 record, it produced 47.9 points per game — the second-highest average in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Alabama also generated 93 plays of 20-plus yards. Only Oklahoma — the Tide’s opponent in the College Football Playoff semifinal round — had more.
“I think he’s done a really, really good job relative to the players that we have and the things that we can do best and hopefully we’ll be able to continue to improve,” Saban said last month. “I think the players respond well to him so I think he’s done a really, really good job.”
Locksley has benefited from the success he’s had in Tuscaloosa, earning serious consideration to be the successor to Maryland’s D.J. Durkin and repair the Terrapins’ damaged program.
He’s also been able to reset his career trajectory after he failed in his only stint as a head coach while at New Mexico, where he compiled a ghastly 2-26 record before he was ousted in 2011.
“I have a unique situation because I am a fired head coach,” he said. “So what I learned by getting fired is how to be a really good assistant coach to try to help those head coaches from getting fired. That’s helped me and prepared me to come up here today.”
Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin