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Hochman: Lock is in right place at right time

December 27, 2017 GMT

HOUSTON • The tourism bureau says Texas is like a whole other country, and come to think of it, this place does have royalty.

Sure, there are actual lawmakers and what have you, but Texas is a land of princes — a select group of men living up to a different societal standard, adored for lore, disproportionately worshipped.

These men are the quarterbacks, more sovereign with every win.

So it’s fitting that Drew Lock is here, for he’s about as Texas Quarterback as it gets. Except he’s an exception — he’ll be playing against Texas in Wednesday’s Texas Bowl.

Missouri’s Lock is the guy they base those movie quarterbacks on. Down here, they’d call him a gunslinger. With a smile so wide it could cross the first-down marker, Lock is a well-liked leader who puts up numbers that are astronomical, if not comical: 43 touchdowns, the most in the FBS.

The most in SEC history.

And his passer rating, 169.4, was better than every quarterback except three, including the kid who won the Heisman.

He’s Missouri’s Drew Lock, and he wants to out-Texas Texas.

I asked Longhorns coach Tom Herman: When you watch Lock on film, what do you see?

The coach paused.

“Touchdowns,” he deadpanned.

After laughter subsided from the media onlookers, Herman continued:

“I see a guy that is comfortable in the offense. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. He’s getting the ball out of his hands quickly and accurately.”

And I don’t think Wednesday is the last we’ll see of Lock, either. Much has been made over whether the junior will stay or go. I asked him Tuesday about the NFL’s Draft Advisory Council. Lock said he was advised to return to Mizzou, since the council didn’t grade him as a first- or second-round quarterback. Lock will still consider leaving early. Mizzou still has to hire a new offensive coordinator. But it makes sense to come back. He knows it, too: “We are a very good team right now — and we’re not losing much.”

He meant that Mizzou isn’t losing much talent to graduation, but it’s also true that Mizzou is not losing much lately, either, as winners of the past six games.

Lock plays the game big, often lofting parabolic passes that flip the field. Or flip the game. Interestingly, Lock said that the council questioned his precision on intermediate passes, something the confident quarterback said he surely can do — he just didn’t get too many chances to do so, in this offense. Lock’s moxie. It’s currency. But it’s not preordained. Sure, he comes from football bloodlines and stands 6-feet-4, but Mizzou’s QB1 approaches preparation as if he were QB2.

“I heard coach (Barry) Odom say it best — he outworks almost everybody, every single day,” said offensive lineman Paul Adams, Lock’s close friend. “He’s there so late, he’s there so early. He wants to be great. And it showcases on Saturdays. …

“I think he’s done a tremendous job, just the past year, in his confidence, as well as him speaking up. I think that’s probably the most. Last year, he wouldn’t really talk much, whether it was a team breakdown or just talking to the team. But this year, you see him, he’s one of the first ones to speak. I think that’s one of the things he’s done an incredible job at. And I think he knew that was something that he needed to work on.”

He’ll face tougher Texans on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, Lock was peppered by a local reporter: “You threw for more touchdowns than Baker Mayfield did, but those of us here in Texas, we didn’t hear about you much.”

Lock didn’t get flustered in the pocket. Proud but realistic, he pointed out that Mizzou was once 1-5. And then he cited that the offense, save the Purdue game, was generally productive all fall (though that Auburn game was rough, too).

“We were here (all along),” he said. “The world didn’t flip on its axis, we were still the same — we just started putting up W’s and people started noticing.”

Lock took umbrage when the reporter then said: “There are some people out there who don’t believe in your six-game winning streak, because you didn’t play Alabama or whoever.”

The quarterback pointed out that many SEC athletes are still “freaky” athletes, even those on losing teams.

And yes, there might never be another season in which Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas all have coaching meltdowns. But it should be reiterated that these teams were obliterated — Mizzou averaged 47.6 points a game against the three.

So on Wednesday, Drew Lock will step onto the Texans’ home field to play Texas in the Texas Bowl. And to those who haven’t heard much about him, here’s thinking he’ll soon remind them of someone they cherished in childhood, be it a high schooler slingin’ it from a dusty backfield or a future pro in burnt orange or maybe their favorite fictional Texas quarterback. Asked his, Lock cited “Friday Night Lights” and the QB1 named “Saracen, Matt Saracen. He was the man,” Lock explained. “He kind of came from nothing, but he loved ball. And you can appreciate guys who love ball at the quarterback position.”

In a land where everything is bigger, nothing is bigger in Texas than the quarterback.