March 31, 2010
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE -- Jake Locker could have spent Tuesday getting ready to perform before NFL scouts as the draft approached.
Instead, Washington's senior quarterback was on the field at Husky Stadium as the team began spring practice on an unseasonably chilly afternoon.
Locker wouldn't have it any other way. NFL money can wait.
"I was really excited. Just the atmosphere, the intensity and the overall enjoyment that you have when you're out here is something that you miss when you're not," Locker said. "It was great to get back out here with the guys and get yelled at and coached and play a little football."
Coming off a 5-7 record in Steve Sarkisian's first season at Washington, Locker decided to put off the NFL for another chance at boosting the Huskies' resurgence. The small-town quarterback who hears it from his teammates when he sings country songs was expected to be a high first-round pick.
Locker didn't wait very long to make his decision. Barely a week after the Huskies' season ended, Locker announced he was returning for his senior year.
"He had a chance to go to the NFL and chose to come back, which I don't have a problem with," said wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, the Huskies' leading receiver last season. "I kind of figured he was going to stay. I had that feeling he was going to stay."
But there's a new wrinkle for Locker's final year. He agreed to a contract with the Los Angeles Angels last August after he was selected in the 10th round of the major league draft.
Details of Locker's contract with the Angels have never been released. He spent a weekend with the AL West champs this month in Arizona, and the Angels have been in talks with the school about whether he would be able to play at all this summer.
Locker has said his top priority is football, and declined to comment further about his baseball situation on Tuesday.
"The plan for him is to play football all the way. When Jake has a week off here and there, nothing mandatory going on, they'd like him to do some baseball. That is where we're talking," Sarkisian said. "A guy can grow mentally ... in being in that clubhouse, in that locker room, in that dugout. But it's the matter of can he handle it mentally and physically so that he's not exhausted in the middle of the season for us. We're still working on that stuff."
Locker finally showed some of the polish pro scouts wanted to see during his first season under Sarkisian's tutelage. He threw for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 58 percent of his throws. It was the third-highest passing total in Washington history and the TD total was fourth-best at a school with a tradition of producing NFL quarterbacks.
He also had nearly 400 yards rushing and seven TDs on the ground, but often tempered his natural reaction to run.
Now with a year of experience in Sarkisian's offense, Locker said Tuesday felt far more comfortable. With the NFL draft a few weeks away and a couple of teammates from last season expected to be chosen, Locker is having a hard time not keeping one eye on what's happening at the pro level.
But it's not a view filled with second-guessing or regret.
"(I'm) not putting myself there. I do like to watch it because it's interesting and it's something you hope to be a part of some day. I do follow it," Locker said. "We have some guys that are going to be in it this year, so I follow them and see what people are saying about them."