March 30, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Anyone wondering if the glamour of being a top quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft has changed Jake Locker should have seen the down-to-earth former Husky star at Washington's Pro Day.
The ESPN Magazine cover boy next week, the subject of two pending documentary films - one on the draft process and the other for his extensive, passionate work with children's charities - says he has declined the league's invitation to be with other top picks at next month's draft in New York. So he won't be inside Radio City Music Hall to hear the commissioner call his name and then put on a team cap and pose for photographs.
"I'm going to be at home," Locker said Wednesday of the small town of Ferndale, Wash., up near the Canadian border that has thrown parades for him and had a Jake Locker Day this past July.
"It's an honor, and I appreciate the invite, but for me, I want to be with the people who have been with me my whole life and have helped me get to this point, to share that experience with them. And of course not all of them would be able to be in New York with me. So for me, it makes more sense to be home where I grew up, and where this all started."
That response was the highlight of his Pro Day workout Wednesday. Oh, that and the 38 passes he completed in 40 attempts in front of impressed scouts who were busy writing down notes on clipboards. His only two incompletions soared 55 and then 60 yards in the air. One went off the finger tips of departing Husky D'Andre Goodwin, and the other hit the turf a step beyond him.
Locker said it was the best he's thrown since Washington's season ended with a victory over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30. Better than at the Senior Bowl or at the NFL combine.
Afterward, some scouts from the 14 NFL teams represented - the Falcons, Browns, Ravens, Bills, Lions, Colts, Jaguars, Vikings, Eagles, Steelers, Chargers, Titans, Saints, and the hometown Seahawks - agreed. One from an NFC team with a pick in the latter half of the first round said it was the best he'd seen Locker throw all winter.
Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian, who chatted a lot during the three-plus hours of workouts with former USC boss and current Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, said following Locker's performance he doesn't see him falling out of the first round.
Carroll was there with Seattle general manager John Schneider and a handful of team scouts and staffers. The Seahawks were the only team to send a head coach - albeit 20 minutes up the road from team headquarters.
Locker did not take part in most of the Pro Day events. He was weighed, measured for height - his 6-feet-2 5/8 inches was 1/8 of an inch taller than he was given at the combine - and then threw to Goodwin, exiting Huskies fullback Austin Sylvester and tight end Dorson Boyce.
By unofficial count, Locker completed all 12 of his throws on two- and three-step drops. He was 17 for 17 following five-step drops. And he was nine for 11 on long throws, of about 25 yards or more.
Not a bad way to leave a first round-like impression heading into the final weeks before the draft.
"I was better. I was more consistent," Locker said. "There were a few throws at the combine I didn't like, that I would have liked to do over again. Today I felt I was more consistent. The ball came off my hand good. I felt confident. It went where I wanted it to."
UW's four-year starter, who finished at or near the top of most Huskies passing records, said he recently adjusted his throwing motion to move his hand more quickly to the top of the ball before throwing. He said the result has been a crisper pass, a tighter spiral with zing.
Goodwin provided his own zing. Some scouts' stopwatches showed 4.47 seconds when Goodwin crossed the finish line in the 40-yard dash. He's projected to be a late-round pick or free-agent signee next month. That sprint and some of his sticky-hands catches for Locker's bullets may have helped his stock.
Mason Foster, who participated alongside fellow departing Huskies linebacker Victor Aiyewa, wasn't sure what to make of sprints, shuttle runs, bench presses, long jumps and assorted other drills he and a dozen Huskies did in front of the scouts - plus Nick Montana, Chris Polk, Jermaine Kearse and a large chunk of wide-eyed current Dawgs - on Wednesday.
"A lot of these drills are to show explosiveness," said Foster, last season's Pac-10 tackling leader who some think could go in the third round, "but they have nothing to do with taking on a pulling guard to make a tackle."
Safety and 2010 co-captain Nate Williams, offensive linemen Ryan Tolar and Cody Habben, linebacker Brandon Huppert and cornerback Vonzell McDowell were also among those participating in the workout at UW's Dempsey Indoor practice facility.