By Cody Soto
Before the sun peeks over the horizon, former Baylor linebacker Eddie Lackey has already arrived at the new D1 Sports training facility in Waco to get ready for the first boot camp of the day.
When the lights turn on, Lackey steps on turf that mirrors the football field he played on only a year ago. In that short time frame, life has been busy for the two-time All-Big 12 linebacker.
Lackey planned to try and earn a spot on an NFL roster following his senior season, but little did he know the twists and turns that he was about to experience. It all started at the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, where Lackey suffered a torn labrum that forced him to endure a third shoulder surgery.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen or what I was going to do. I knew, already having two shoulder surgeries before, that things weren’t in the greatest shape going into the NFL,” Lackey said.
On the same day that he got cleared to work out again, Lackey made his way to a Dallas Cowboys minicamp workout. He had not practiced full speed since his injury, so he had to hang up his practice jersey and realize his NFL hopes were not looking good.
“It was debilitating for Eddie. (His shoulder injury) kept him from getting drafted unequivocally,” defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said. “Had he been full speed, he would have been playing for the Dallas Cowboys. It was double jeopardy, but I never worried about Eddie because I knew he had a better calling.”
Lackey took his talents across the border, where he signed a deal to play for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League in June quickly after that. He played one preseason game before he was cut and retreated back to Waco to pursue another passion: fitness training. He used his knowledge of physical fitness to train others at Gold’s Gym after coming back from the CFL.
“Ever since I started lifting, I’ve had this passion to help people out and teach how to exercise and do things correctly with technique,” Lackey said.
Sitting at 220 pounds and 5 feet 11 inches, Lackey is a formidable figure. He overcame two previous shoulder injuries, so he knew he had the potential to recover from the third. He had considered participating in this year’s Baylor Pro Day, but something had changed for him.
“I was lifting harder than ever, working as hard as I could, but the whole time I only had one foot in the door,” Lackey said. “I never completely felt like I wanted to continue to do this anymore. As I was training more and more, I grew a love for helping people reach their goals.”
The NFL dream may have been over for him, but little did he know that another opportunity was in the distance. Lackey made connections with the staff at D1 Abilene while training. He soon learned Waco could get its own facility.
He got a phone call a few hours later. The facility coordinator position was open, and it was his for the taking. As the coordinator, it’s his job to make sure everything runs smoothly. For him, it’s not just a job; it’s his passion.
“I love the opportunity I have right now with the position that I am in,” Lackey said. “Everything just worked out perfectly. I can still be around great people and have a facility in Waco.”
Lackey’s journey is almost unmatched; he had four opportunities in his first year out of college. Although this may have seemed overwhelming at times, Lackey’s way of handling adversity spoke of his character.
“He chased after God and in turn made me push myself in my faith,” junior wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne said. “He made me a true believer. You see it in magazines, but I was seeing it in first person. Whenever you have a guy like him who is sold out in Christ, there’s nothing he can’t do.”
Lackey anchored himself in his faith and faced harsh realities during those days, and what made him strong was his overall trust in Christ, former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty said.
“Eddie’s such a role model for how he lives for Christ,” Petty said. “It’s one thing to sit and trust God, but it’s another thing when you follow a plan and it doesn’t come through. If you can trust in Christ and a door closes, then there’s a bigger and better one opening for you.”
Doors did open for Lackey, and now he serves as an example for young recruits who are considering Baylor football.
“His track was one where he had to prove himself everywhere he went, and he’s always done it,” Bennett said. “I want him around every recruit that we have. He epitomizes what we’re about at Baylor. God puts us all on a journey, and Eddie is making the most of his journey.”
Lackey’s job allows him to reside in Waco, something he can’t help but smile about. His Baylor pride is still very evident. Every time he hears the word Baylor, he flashes his smile.
“Baylor blood really runs deep,” Lackey said. “I was only at Baylor for two years, but I feel like I was there for 10 years. I love Baylor so much, and people are so passionate about our school.”
Along with the memories of playing at Floyd Casey Stadium, Lackey now has a big tie to McLane Stadium. On Feb. 2, he proposed to his girlfriend Cassidy Walker on the 50-yard line. An entire evening’s worth of events went just as Lackey had planned, which took weeks of preparation.
“It ended up turning into the biggest plan I’ve ever come through with in my life,” Lackey said. “It was bigger than any football or college planning I’ve ever made. We are going to have that memory and moment with us forever; it was a great celebration out there on the 50-yard line.”
When people first look at Lackey, they don’t see his animated personality behind his serious expression. He does like spending the day lifting weights and improving his physique, but the “country boy at heart” loves going outdoors to fish.
“I will do anything to get out there to any pond in the area,” Lackey said. “I will search as hard as I can. I will create a fishing pole if I have to. There’s something about it. It creates a different kind of happiness in me.”
As Lackey plants his feet at D1 Sports and settles into his brand new office, he will have the support he needs, especially from co-best men Petty and Hawthorne.
“The facility is unbelievable, and they have the person to lead it. He’s going to give Waco the next level of training,” Petty said. “He’s supported me along my journey. It doesn’t matter if I am playing on Sundays or flipping burgers, he is going to be there. God put him into my life for that reason.”
Lackey has experienced adversity within the past year, and he knows that the hard days are not over. However, it’s his faith and focus that will allow him to experience continued success. With him at the helm of D1 Sports, the facility will not be shaken.
“It was a tough time frame, but I look back at it and I realize that it was all in God’s hands,” Lackey said. “This is the reason why I got hurt in the Fiesta Bowl. It was a blessing more than anything. God was at work in my life the whole time.”