Dec. 14, 2009
SEATTLE (AP) - Jake Locker walked into the football offices at Washington on Monday morning and quickly ended any lingering question about his future.
Touted as a potential top 10 NFL draft selection, Locker is putting his professional aspirations on hold and instead will return for his senior season and one more shot at helping restore the Huskies to prominence.
In a statement released through the university, Locker said he will not make himself available for the 2010 NFL draft.
"After a great deal of careful thought and deliberation, I have decided to return to Washington and play my senior year,'' Locker said. "I am very excited about this team's opportunities and potential for the upcoming season and I am looking forward to being a part of it.''
Locker's decision is a major coup for coach Steve Sarkisian and a Washington program that showed signs of revival, going 5-7 this season after an 0-12 debacle in 2008. The Huskies won't be trying to build on the momentum of their most wins since 2003 with a new quarterback.
"I think Jake feels like he's got some unfinished work here at the University of Washington and I truly believe he wouldn't have done this if he didn't feel we were headed in the right direction,'' Sarkisian said during a conference call Monday afternoon.
Due to final exams this week and the upcoming holiday break, the school said Locker would not be available for further comment until after the New Year.
It was believed that Locker would wait until the NFL Collegiate Advisory Committee gave its evaluation before he made a final decision. But as Sarkisian noted, most draft pundits have pegged Locker as a high first-round pick, potentially No. 1 overall, if he decided to leave now, making the evaluation less important.
Locker spent the weekend with his family sifting through the information before making a decision.
"I knew he was going to make a fast decision but didn't think it would be this quick,'' Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said.
Draft pundits have raved about Locker's raw skills - his running back speed combined with the bulk of a linebacker and an arm capable of making all the throws the NFL requires.
But this was the first time Locker showed the polish needed to be successful in the NFL.
Playing in Sarkisian's prostyle offense, Locker 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 throws were fourth-best at a school with a tradition of producing NFL quarterbacks.
He also added nearly 400 yards rushing and seven TDs on the ground, tempering his natural reaction to run when the situation presented itself to be more of a passer.
For all the individual growth, last-second losses to Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA kept the Huskies from a bowl trip and may have spurred Locker to stay.
"I thought he was coming in to shoot the breeze, and he made the statement 'Coach I'm staying.' Just matter of fact said it,'' Sarkisian said. "That's the kind of guy he is. ... He put in the time to do this thing the right way.''
There was also little financial concern for Locker by passing up the NFL money now. He is not on scholarship at Washington, the result of signing a contract with the Los Angeles Angels this summer after the Angels took him in the amateur baseball draft. Locker's signing bonus with the Angels was reportedly $300,000.
To be safe, the family will take out an insurance policy before the start of next season, Sarkisian said.
Locker will also receive increased attention and scrutiny. Woodward said Washington's athletic marketing department already has a basic plan "ready to go'' to promote Locker for the Heisman Trophy. But Sarkisian welcomes the increased attention, saying that much focus will help prepare Locker for the NFL.
Locker likely launched that campaign in the season finale against California with arguably his finest college game, completing 19 of 23 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns, while running for two more TDs in a 42-10 win.
"I couldn't be more happy for him,'' Woodward said. "It shows you the character guy that he is, making a mature, informed decision and making the right decision in my opinion.''