COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is mad. Mad about a lot of things, really. "If I didn't have this edge," he says from inside an empty meeting room at the team's football facility, "I just don't know…"
It is the middle of July, six weeks before Lock's senior season—six weeks before his second audition for NFL teams begins in earnest. Some believe he is the top quarterback in his class and a potential franchise changer. Others aren't so sure.
But even now, wearing a smile and wristband with "HUMBLE OVER HYPE" etched across it, Lock is displeased by his relative anonymity. Even now, having thrown more touchdowns in a single season than anyone in the SEC—more than Peyton Manning and Cam Newton and Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel—people still mangle the spelling of his name.
He noticed it last year at SEC media days when he happened to glance at his name scribbled improperly in sportswriters' notebooks—a rogue "e" attached to the end of his last name. He's seen it on television as well.
"If you really cared about me as a quarterback or our football team, then you would definitely know how to spell it," Lock says. "It's a few letters. How hard can it be?"
For Lock, who turned down offers from dozens of the nation's most successful programs to stay home and follow in his father Andy's footsteps at Missouri, this is something he can't quite get past. He can't help but wonder: If he were playing at Ohio State or Texas, programs that coveted him when he starred at Lee's Summit Senior High School, would the media still occasionally misspell his name?
Consider his 2017 season: 3,964 yards and 44 touchdown passes—one more than Heisman winner and No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. This followed a 23-touchdown, 10-interception year in 2016 as a true sophomore.
Consider the year he is putting together. Through three games, Lock has thrown for 11 touchdowns, run for two more and thrown only one interception. His completion percentage—the knock on him heading into this season—is at 69 percent, up more than 10 percentage points from a season ago.
"I think if there's one thing that needs to improve, it's that," Lock says of his completion percentage. "Because if anyone has a question about whether I can throw the deep ball, then they haven't seen any of our games."
At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Lock has an NFL body, along with an NFL arm. And yet, there are concerns about how these gifts will translate to the NFL, which in part is why he returned for his senior year.
"People want to compare him to Josh Allen," says one NFL scout, referring to the former Wyoming quarterback taken by the Buffalo Bills with the seventh pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. "But Allen's accuracy issues were fixable with mechanics. Lock just isn't accurate."
Says another: "I thought if he left last year his stock would've soared at the combine. He's a first-round talent all the way. Depending on how well he plays, I absolutely could see him as the first QB taken."
So who is he?
Drew Lock is stranded. The boat carrying the quarterback and his two friends, Brian and Cole, is having engine problems in the middle of Lakewood Lake, a popular fishing spot in Lock's hometown, Lee's Summit, Missouri.
While they had brought aboard the perfect concoction to catch catfish—treble hooks, yarn and chicken liver—the trip is cut short. Brian and Cole jump in to push the boat to shore. Lock does the slow steering home.
Growing up, Lock loved to fish and still does. He plays golf and can shoot in the 70s every now and then. And basketball? It nearly kept him from a life of throwing footballs.
Unlike most star quarterback prospects, Lock has two recruiting profiles on 247Sports: one for football, where he was ranked as the nation's No. 10 quarterback in 2015, and another for basketball, where Lock was ranked as the country's No. 112 shooting guard.
After being unable to reach Lock, Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall tracked him down at a football practice, where he offered him a scholarship. Oklahoma basketball coach Lon Kruger offered him as well. Missouri's coaches, sensing Lock had serious athletic ambition beyond playing quarterback, offered him scholarships in football and basketball, with the understanding that he might actually play both.
Schools from around the country lined up to lure the hometown kid away, and a few came close. Tennessee, in particular, made an impression on Lock.
"Butch Jones knows how to really recruit," Lock says. "He came to my high school and knew what to say. I kept my options open to see if something could really tear me away from Mizzou, but in the end, nothing could."
The memories of the Kansas-Missouri rivalry games—like the one he sat through in the snow as a fan—were too vivid. His father, Andy, played offensive line for the Tigers in the 1980s. His grandfather, Jerry, played fullback for Missouri for a season in the 1960s. The family ties were too powerful to resist.
"I could've gone to those big dogs if I wanted to and shined," Lock says. "But I wanted to come here and keep the tradition alive. I've had that chip on my shoulder since I got here."
Drew Lock is limping. His eyes are fixed on the ground. His shoulders sag. It is October 10, 2015, and the freshman's body language says everything.
After a two-interception performance against Florida in his second start, a 21-3 loss in which he is hit often and sacked three times, Lock shuffles toward his father.
"There were times I was very worried about his physical and mental well-being," Andy Lock, remembering that moment, says of his son. "Not only as a football player, but as a person."
Most every Saturday the rest of that season, Lock trudges dejectedly out of the stadium following the game. Thrown into action after starter Maty Mauk is suspended, Lock makes eight starts and finishes his freshman season with only four touchdown passes. He isn't ready to play, but there is no other choice.
As student protests against racism and discrimination rock the Missouri campus, the football program is rocked as well. Gary Pinkel, the coach who recruited Lock, retires at the end of the season to deal with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
In the final game of that tumultuous 5-7 season, Lock completes only nine of 27 throws for 83 yards in a 28-3 loss to Arkansas.
Drew Lock is wearing his imaginary backpack. It is 2017, and Lock has just connected on one of his 44 touchdown throws. As he does after every score, he throws the imaginary straps over each shoulder—a celebration inspired by Lil Uzi Vert and Gucci Mane's song "Secure the Bag."
It's a gesture that is mocked by Texas head coach Tom Herman in Missouri's 33-16 loss in the 2017 Texas Bowl, a moment Lock wears as a badge of honor now that the celebration has been retired.
A new ritual has taken shape this year: a post-touchdown celebration called "Whammy," a nod to the unmistakable Champ Kind and the movie Anchorman.
"He's not boastful, he's not arrogant, but he's naturally confident," Lock's father says. "He just believes in himself, and if there's one trait to have as a quarterback, that's the one to have."
His longtime quarterback coach, Justin Hoover, who has worked with Lock since high school, agrees: "I think he has a really strong sense of who he is, and he's really comfortable in his own skin. That allows him to still be a great team guy. But because he's so authentic, when he goes out on the field, he wants to step on your throat."
While Lock was playing at South Carolina in 2016, a fan threw a water bottle at him as he exited the field. The quarterback stopped, went back to retrieve the bottle and dumped what was left of it through his facemask and into his mouth.
"His piss is hot," running back Damarea Crockett says of his quarterback. "He's fire red. That's the best Drew Lock. When he's mad, when he's ticked off, I love that Drew."
Last Saturday, in the moments after Missouri's 40-37 victory over Purdue, Lock ran over to the stands and walked off with a sign that read "Mizzou still sucks." It was the brainchild of a Boilermakers fan sitting in the front row.
The fan tracked down Lock before he boarded the team bus. In exchange for the sign, Lock took a smiling selfie with the fan. By Tuesday, the keepsake was hanging inside his locker.
Drew Lock is sorry. Sorry for saying things that should never have been said, no matter how old he was.
In August, the Columbia Daily Tribune published derogatory tweets Lock posted in 2011 when he was 14 years old. They were racially and sexually insensitive and inappropriate, even if they were merely crude attempts at humor.
Lock provided a statement to the paper, not making excuses for the comments.
"I didn't intend to offend anyone with those messages," Lock wrote. "But I understand that this is an example of how words, even when written by a young teenager, can be interpreted by others as newsworthy, harmful and inappropriate."
When the tweets were unearthed, Lock called his father. He told him he didn't remember writing what he wrote—he was 14, after all—but that didn't change the response he and his father felt was necessary.
"We talked about it," Andy Lock says. "He doesn't have much adversity in his life, so that was something that we just had to figure out, and I thought he handled it well."
Drew Lock is locked inside his bedroom. It is a Thursday night in late April—more specifically, the night of the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. He wants to know where his good friend, USC quarterback Sam Darnold, will be taken. But he has no interest in anything else.
Rather than tune in, he plays video games all night. He doesn't check his phone.
"I'm thinking, 'S--t, I'm watching guys walk across the stage and it could've been me,'" Lock says. "I didn't want to see that. Been geared toward this season ever since."
The decision to return to Missouri after his historic junior season came down to a handful of factors. A strong quarterback draft class certainly played a role, as did mixed messages regarding where Lock would be selected.
The NFL's College Advisory Committee gives three grades to underclassmen who are contemplating leaving school early: first round, second round or neither. Lock didn't receive a first- or second-round grade, which typically signals a return to school. Others consulted by his family and coaches were more optimistic about his draft prospects.
Part of the allure of coming back was the addition of offensive coordinator Derek Dooley, the former Tennessee head coach whom Missouri head coach Barry Odom hired when former offensive coordinator Josh Heupel took the head coaching job at Central Florida.
Dooley, who spent the previous five years with the Dallas Cowboys, introduced more of a pro-style offense.
"He's got a big arm, he's very creative and he's got that playmaking ability," Dooley says of Lock. "I think that he has the physical traits of any really good quarterback in the NFL. He's been blessed with those traits. Now the question really is what is he going to do with them? And that's gonna be really determined over time."
Drew Lock likes the smooth, country sounds of Miranda Lambert.
"I don't know if too many people even know that about him," senior lineman Paul Adams says. "I think he's probably one of the more chill guys that I've met."
Like so many of his teammates, Adams has seen all sides of Lock. The calm. The laughter. The anger. All of it. He's also witnessed his quarterback do spectacular, record-breaking things and not be celebrated the way he would have been at another school.
"This is the man who threw more touchdowns than anyone last year," Adams says. "Most of a lot of things. Led in a lot of categories and you're gonna put other guys in front of him? That just fuels him. In that sense, it's perfect."
It is strange that the quarterback who holds the single-season touchdown record in the nation's most celebrated football conference could be overlooked.
"I think that record is even more impressive if you throw some of the other names up there that he passed on that list," Odom says. "I think he's put himself in the conversation as one of the best, if not the best, in the country. He's constantly anxious to prove that."
Drew Lock doesn't care if you like him or not. If you boo him or throw things at him or mock his imaginary backpack. If you question his future at quarterback, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to do. Or if you discredit his historic season and the encore he is putting together.
"It got to the point during my freshman year, and even again last year, where I decided I wasn't gonna say anything," Lock says. "People talk. People tweet. I'm gonna sit back and let what happens happen. And I'll flip them the bird at the end."
Oh, he's deeply aware of it all. Not because it consumes him, but because life on the edge demands the appropriate fuel. And for as much as he wants to prove his critics wrong—the scouts who believe he is nothing more than a statistical phenomenon—he is far more interested in proving himself right.
Maybe then, just maybe, they'll finally spell his name right.