Woodberry Forest QB Ben Locklear (Photo courtesy of Jamie Locklear)
High jumps, Brett Favre, and leadership roles: The complete package that is Woodberry QB Ben Locklear
by Brandon Mitchell, recruit804
Woodberry Forest is a tremendous boarding school that houses boys in the nine through twelve grades. It’s the largest of all private boarding schools in the state of Virginia and is one of the top boarding schools for boys in the entire nation. One of the factors that make Woodberry Forest extremely diverse is its attention towards its athletic department. It’s one that allows its student-athletes to participate in a multitude of sports depending on the season that includes tennis, golf, mountain biking, squash, lacrosse and, football.
Football is an area in which Woodberry has watched many of its student-athletes find homes with Division I programs upon walking across the stage to graduate. In December, Woodberry witnessed Kyle Bilodeau, DeQuece Carter, John Harris, and Jaxon Hill sign their National Letter of Intent to attend Purdue, Fordham, Rhodes, and Middlebury. The bridge between academic and athletic success at Woodberry are two lines that continue to run parallel with each year that passes.
If there’s anyone that has embodied the culture of Woodberry over the last two years it would be none other than starting quarterback Ben Locklear (2021 QB 6-5 220). Woodberry was led by Prep League Football Player of the Year Will Wideman during the during 2017 football season when Locklear was just a freshman. Sitting during his freshman season allowed him to watch how Wideman commanded the offense knowing that the very next year he’d be propelled to the same leadership role.
“My freshman year was my first ever year sitting,” Locklear explained. “I think I really needed it and it was a big growing experience for me in my life. Watching a senior out their play the quarterback position was important to me at the time. I really learned from Will Wideman and he taught me a lot. I don’t think I would’ve been ready and I matured a lot.”
Locklear is a Spotsylvania County native, but spends most of his time up at Woodberry Forest. His first experience playing football was around the age of four years old when he was introduced to flag football. Two years later, Locklear got the opportunity to put football pads on for the first time and began to play tackle football. The rising junior has never been one to shy away from contact growing up which is why he played center, tight end, defensive end, and outside linebacker before quarterback become the endgame for him.
“There was something about football early on that made me love it,” Locklear stated. “I wasn’t the greatest football player at first and I even played center for my first two years. But there was something about it that made me love the sport and I’ve stuck with it ever since. Growing up I was very interested in pocket passers. I watched a lot of Brett Favre with my dad.”
The decision to attend Woodberry Forest was a decision that didn’t need much discussion from Locklear and the rest of his family. Former assistant coach Will Maddox contacted Locklear prior to the start of his freshman season and urged him to apply. Locklear then applied, was interviewed, took a tour of the campus, got to meet the coaches, and then proceeded to fall in love with the campus.
It was his love of the culture as well as his commitment to excellence that allowed him to take over the starting quarterback role after Will Wideman moved on. Locklear helped lead the Tigers to a record of 5-3 on the season and accumulated 2,350 passing yards as well as 21 touchdowns in just eight games on the season.
“At the beginning of the season I was extremely excited,” Locklear said. I had been sitting for a year and I was ready. Honestly, I couldn’t wait. The feeling is kind of hard to explain, but I know that it felt natural. I wasn’t and I didn’t over stress about anything either. I’m excited about the start of every game, but once we get started I’m super calm. I just went out there and tried to win.”
Coming into the 2018 football season, the Tigers were just a year removed from losing longtime head coach Clint Alexander who decided to take the head coach position at Grand Blanc High School in Grand Blanc, Michigan. In 12 seasons at Woodberry Forest he was able to accumulate a record of 82-31-1 leading his men to nine Prep League titles. Scott Braswell came aboard later in 2017 and presented himself as just the sixth head coach in the history of the Tigers’ football program. Despite holding and 11-6 mark through his first two seasons, there were growing pains that trickled into last season for Woodberry Forest.
“We had a coaching change in the year prior and in losing Coach Alexander, a lot of people transferred out of the school,” Locklear explained. “We were having huge records and nine to ten guys going Division I per year. We had to a lot rebuild the team from the ground up which makes me happy that I came on when Coach Braswell showed up. It was a good year and the team bonded pretty well.”
At the moment Locklear is knee deep in his track and field season. Currently he runs the 100M, 200M, high jumps, and also performs the discus throw. Speed and agility are two key important factors in his development for the upcoming football season and he’s able to better his performance on the football field through track. The work he’s put on the football field in conjunction with track allowed Locklear to pick up his first collegiate offer in January from Coach Mike London, Sr. and the College of William and Mary.
“At the time I didn’t have a lot of communication with William and Mary so the offer kind of came as a surprise,” Locklear stated. “They have a great coaching staff over there with Coach Marion and Coach London. They’re definitely building something great as well as a new culture. It definitely brought in a lot more attention than I was receiving.”
After picking up his first offer, the removed lid made it easier for multiple programs to ramp up their interest. North Carolina proceeded to invite Locklear to its Junior Day in which he was able to spend upwards of 3 hours conversing with their quarterbacks coach. Boston College, Richmond, James Madison, Charlotte, Syracuse, and Duke have all began to show a little more attention. Locklear will be attending the William and Mary football camp on June 3 which is slated to have coaches from the University of Michigan in attendance.
“This offseason I’ll keep working on my mobility and endurance,” Locklear said. “I definitely want to broaden my weapons spectrum. Hopefully I’ll be able to do quarterback training everyday this summer and get together with a bunch of the guys from Woodberry. That’s one of the things that’s hard about boarding school is that you don’t get the entire summer to work with your team. This is way we have to hold each other accountable.”
– Brandon Mitchell