COUNCIL BLUFFS — The thought independently had crossed the minds of Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier and starting quarterback Kurt Walding.
So when they discussed it together, they both knew it was the correct thing to do.
They gave backup signal caller Kai Locksley, whose brother was killed last Sunday, the start, and Locksley didn't disappoint. He played all of the first three possessions, running for a 3-yard touchdown and throwing scoring passes of 25 and 22 yards in that time. Locksley's inspiring performance sent No. 7 Iowa Western on its way to a 63-6 demoliton of Fort Scott on Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd of 1,085 at Titan Stadium.
Meiko Locksley, the 25-year-old brother of Kai Locksley, was killed near his home in Columbia, Maryland. Their father, Mike Locksley, is the co-offensive coordinator at Alabama.
Kai Locksley said he found out Thursday that he would be the starter.
"Kurt and Coach Stroh actually came up to me on Thursday after practice and were like, 'We decided that we want to give you the opportunity because we want you to honor your brother,'" he said. "I was just so grateful and happy and humbled, because he didn't have to do that at all. It was real big by Kurt, respect-wise."
Despite everything weighing on his mind, Locksley was sharp. He completed 9 of 11 passes for 168 yards and the two scores — all in the first quarter. The University of Texas transfer credited his brother for his performance.
"I knew he was watching down on me," he said. "He could finally see me play. That's all we've always talked about, is how he can't wait to see me play again. I know he was up there watching me, and I felt like he was with me in every pass."
Strohmeier said one of the reasons his team has been able to perform so well is that his athletes are playing for each other.
"You've got a starting quarterback who's obviously trying to make plays and be recruited, and he told me, 'Coach it's more than just football,' " he said. "I credit him. That's the type of team we have. We're in good shape because we're setting aside personal accomplishments for the betterment of the team."
Walding, who threw for 116 yards in limited action, said it wasn't a difficult decision.
"I just think life's bigger than football," he said. "I just wanted to show him a sign of respect. He's a great teammate. Usually you think of kids coming (from) D-Is being a little arrogant. He's the complete opposite of that. He's a stand-up guy, and he has my utmost respect."
Locksley said the entire Iowa Western family has supported him in his family's darkest hour.
"The entire community has been so helpful," he said. "They definitely were my backbone and able to get me through, because early on in the week I was a wreck. I didn't think I'd be able to make it through the week. I had guys coming up to me, sending me texts, coaches reaching out, administration, everybody."
Iowa Western (3-0) scored on its first 10 possessions before punting for the first time with 4:40 left in the third quarter, leading 63-6. The Reivers led 57-0 at the half, outgaining the Greyhounds (0-3) 442-57 before the intermission. They called off the dogs in the second half, and unofficially finished with 609 total yards.
Locksley will return home Sunday and the funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in Oxon Hill, Maryland. He said he was especially motivated on Saturday to honor his brother's memory.
"I just knew that I wanted to honor him in the best way that I could, by being the best teammate, being a great leader and executing with my guys," he said. "After every touchdown I looked up to him and I told him, 'Thank you.' "
Fort Scott (0-3) ..................... 0 0 6 0— 6
At Iowa Western (3-0) ...... 34 23 6 0—63
IW: Tahj Telfair 25 pass from Locksley (pass failed)
IW: Telfair 22 pass from Locksley (Ogamba kick)
IW: T-Boy White 8 run (Ogamba kick)
IW: Mekhi Sargent 1 run (Ogamba kick)