Aug. 26, 2007
SEATTLE (AP) - He is considered the perfect kid -- polite, humble, generous -- with the golden right arm and sprinter's legs. Washington loyalists have bestowed upon him the simple but weighty responsibility of rejuvenating the once-powerhouse Huskies program.
His teammates laud him with words like "stud," "leader," and "maturity."
This is Jake Locker, 19-year-old quarterback. And the future of Washington football.
The small-town kid from Ferndale, Wash., doesn't like being the center of attention. When told how he is viewed by his teammates, he scuffles his hands and gives a sheepish grin trying to deflect the attention from himself.
Don't miss a second of the action when the Huskies play at Syracuse on Saturday. Sign up for the FREE Dawg Channel today!
Locker is the prototype that encompasses all of Tyrone Willingham's beliefs as a football coach. Earlier this month, Willingham said the dictionary definition of what he sought in a humble and hungry football player could be defined by an image of Locker.
Again, this is a 19-year-old who's never thrown a collegiate pass.
"He's just natural, I guess," said center Juan Garcia. "There are so many good things about Jake you can't even point one out."
How about the obvious? Locker's 6-foot-3 and listed at 215 pounds. He will be Washington's starting quarterback when the Huskies open the season on Aug. 31 at Syracuse. His speed makes him another running back in the Huskies backfield, with a powerful throwing arm that had pro baseball scouts drooling over Locker as a high school senior.
Locker bypassed the chance at baseball and is widely regarded as one of the most talented recruits to walk on the Washington campus in the last 15 years.
"Physically, the guy is outrageous," said wide receiver Cody Ellis. "He runs as fast as a running back or a wide receiver. He's as strong as a linebacker. I see him getting better each day."
That desire to improve comes from Locker's humble upbringing in Ferndale, a part-farming, part-commuter community north of Bellingham, near the Canadian border. Even though he was one of the best athletes ever to walk the halls of Ferndale High School, his parents -- Scott and Anita -- kept him down to earth.
They stressed academics, honesty, faith and especially not cutting corners when it came to work.
"My dad, it wasn't one thing. He didn't say work as hard as you can in sports and all that," Locker said. "It was do as good as you can in everything you do."
There will be plenty of hard work awaiting Locker, as the Huskies embark on a schedule considered among the toughest in the country.
After debuting against Syracuse, Locker will make his first home start against Boise State. Then comes Ohio State, UCLA and finally No. 1 Southern California to close out his first month as a college quarterback.
Locker's not sure what to expect when he walks into the huddle for the first time at the Carrier Dome. It's bound to be a better than the first time he walked into the Ferndale huddle as a wide-eyed 14-year-old freshman. He was so nervous he couldn't call the play.
"It's going to be exciting and a new experience for me, but I really don't know what I'm going to feel," Locker said. "I've never been in this big a situation in my life. We'll see."