Austin, Texas As a defensive tackle, Derek Lokey was a mauler, anchoring a Texas unit that ranked No. 1 against the run most of last season.
On offense, he was the masher. As the short-yardage fullback, Lokey opened holes for the tailbacks to get that extra yard or into the end zone.
Then a broken leg against Nebraska sent him to the sideline midway through the season, and the Longhorns were never quite the same. Now he's back in the game, and Texas should be better on both sides of the football because of it.
"I thought Derek was our biggest loss of the year," coach Mack Brown said. "He's such a dominant leader ... he's tough as nails."
That's an understatement.
Lokey was injured in a pileup in the second quarter against the Cornhuskers. He walked to the sideline with a broken left fibula that eventually would require surgery, yet the pain wasn't enough to stop Lokey from thinking he'd head right back in the game.
"He gets up and walked off the field so I thought he was fine," Brown said.
"I guess it just got twisted in there or something like that. I didn't really notice until I got to the sideline and sat down, cooled off and stood back up on it," Lokey said.
His season was done.
On defense, Texas had lost a valuable leader in the huddle and one of its best players on the line. It was even more glaring on offense when the Longhorns could no longer grind out the tough yards when they needed to.
Lokey, a 290-pounder who has been able to bench press more than 400 pounds since he was a junior in high school, was the linchpin of the Longhorns' "jumbo" package for short-yardage situations. As the fullback, Lokey was the battering ram laying out linemen, linebackers or safeties who dared to take him on.
Without him, the Longhorns were left trying to use Colt McCoy on a quarterback sneak against Kansas State in the first quarter. McCoy got popped hard on the shoulder, pinched a nerve and was knocked out of the game. Texas lost.
Against Texas A&M two weeks later, Texas moved to the Aggies' nine-yard line on the first drive but stalled on fourth-and-1. Henry Melton, a 270-pound tailback, danced into line and was dropped for no gain on a momentum-turning play.
"We lost power in our short-yardage game when (Lokey) got hurt," Brown said.
Without him on defense, Texas allowed the Aggies to chew up yards and clock on the ground in the fourth quarter until they punched in the winning touchdown in the final minutes. The 12-7 loss knocked the Longhorns out of the Big 12 title game.