It surely was an odd sight — Drew Lock whistling footballs among rows of weight machines and assorted dumbbells inside the Lee’s Summit High School weight room.
It was three years ago now, the dead of winter and too cold for an outdoor workout, but then-Oklahoma offensive coordinator Josh Heupel made a six-hour trek to watch Lock, still a high school junior at the time, throw in person.
“I definitely had heard about the guys (Heupel) had worked with and (Lee’s Summit) coach (Eric) Thomas told me: ‘This is the real deal coming to watch you throw. You should be ready for this and grateful that he’s coming to watch you,’ ” said Lock, who unofficially kicked off his sophomore season Tuesday at Missouri with the first spring practice.
The day Heupel arrived, the weight room was the best-available accommodation.
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“I remember it well,” said Heupel, who was hired in December as the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator. “I really liked the kid. He reminded me of other great guys that I’ve been around with his overall skill set as an athlete. He was still really raw as a quarterback … and we weren’t going to take a quarterback in that class, but he was a special player.”
Within a few months, Lock committed to Missouri and eventually signed with the Tigers despite a change of heart and a last-minute offer by Heupel and the Sooners.
Fate soon dealt both a crummy hand.
Heupel was fired a year later by Oklahoma and spent last season at Utah State.
Meanwhile, Lock was thrown into the fire before he was ready and quarterbacked one of the worst offenses in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season after incumbent starter Maty Mauk was suspended.
Reunited now, Heupel and Lock will seek redemption together.
“Our relationship kept growing throughout my recruitment,” Lock said. “We talked every week or so, which is kind of cool. I got to learn about his kids before he was even here. I knew he had a son and a daughter. … It’s crazy that he actually ended up being my coach.”
Lock’s ears perked up after Barry Odom was hired and rumors circulated he might hire Heupel.
Lock, who said the shoulder he injured against BYU feels fine after two months of rest and rehab, scrounged up film of Utah State games. He was glued to the Aggies’ bowl game.
“Obviously, first we were hoping for coach Odom,” Lock said. “Then when that happened, as the Heupel rumors started coming around, I got a little excited.”
Lock — who completed 49.0 percent of his passes, going 129 of 263, for 1,332 yards with four touchdowns and eight interceptions last season — admits now he probably wasn’t prepared last season.
“Just seeing the work we’ve had to put in now up to this first spring practice, it’s way different than anything I did last year,” he said.
Lock has added 20 pounds, which should help him absorb the seasonlong pounding better and improve his arm strength. He’s better prepared physically and is working with Heupel to master the mental side.
“Quarterback’s a lot of little things that add up to the big things,” Heupel said. “You have has to understand defenses, understand your scheme, understand your personnel, then play well fundamentally to give yourself a chance to be accurate with the ball when all those other things come together.”
Odom admitted that last season’s experience — even if it was chocked full of hard lessons — probably gives Lock a leg up in the quarterback race. Heupel also had high praise.
“He wants to be great and pushes himself every single day to make strides,” Heupel said. “He’s eager for knowledge and, because of that, has gotten better since I’ve gotten here. He’s got a high ceiling. He’s a highly competitive kid with a good overall skill set and good athleticism, but that’s true of a lot of the guys in our meeting room.”
Redshirt sophomore Marvin Zanders, who has been on campus one year longer than Lock, and sophomore transfer Jack Lowary, who arrived in February from Long Beach (Calif.) City College, will challenge Lock for the top spot on the depth chart coming out of the spring.