Locker secure with decision to stay
SEATTLE -- The promise of a big pile of money waiting in the NFL couldn't overpower quarterback Jake Locker's belief that he had goals to accomplish before he leaves Washington.
That's the simple explanation of why Locker -- a likely high first-round pick -- decided to bypass the wealth of the pros for one more season at Washington and a chance to restore the luster to the once proud program.
"The only reason for going was because there's a lot of money involved. I didn't care about that. That's not what it's about for me," Locker said on Friday, his first extended comments about his decision since it was announced on Dec. 14. "I want to enjoy what I'm doing. So when I looked at it that way, it was a real easy decision for me."
In making that decision, Locker gave up a chance to possibly be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft -- as some pundits predicted -- instead returning to Washington on the gamble that a 5-7 team can make another huge stride and find itself back in the postseason about a year from now.
There's plenty of risk involved. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford and the shoulder injury that cost him almost nearly the entire 2009 season is exhibit No. 1 of the perils Locker potentially faces by returning.
But Locker only sees the benefits. He gets another year under the coaching of Steve Sarkisian with the opportunity to make additional strides in becoming a better passer to go along with his uncanny running skills. Then there's the opportunity to parlay a five-win improvement in 2009 into a run to a bowl game in 2010.
Locker admitted as much saying he'd be surprised if the Huskies don't make the postseason for the first time since 2002. His hopes are bolstered by an offense that returns all of its top backs and receivers.
"I want to make a decision that I'm not going to regret 30 years from now. I want to make a decision that I'm going to be able to live with because it's a big decision. If you make the wrong one, it will really wear on you," Locker said. "I knew that I hadn't done what I set out to do when I came here. I felt that the opportunity I had in front of me with the team we had coming back this next year was a pretty good one. I want to play it out. I want to see how good we can be."
Scouts have raved about Locker's raw skills since he was a freshman -- his running back speed combined with the bulk of a linebacker and an arm capable of making all the throws the NFL requires.
But 2009 was the first time Locker showed the polish needed to be successful on Sundays.
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, while tempering his natural tendency to run when the situation presented itself in favor of trying to be more of a passer.
"This is not to sound boastful or arrogant in any way, but I think we're the best coaches for him at this stage of his career," Sarkisian said. "I firmly believe in our coaching. I firmly believe in the system that we run. I firmly believe in that maturation process from year one to year two and the coaching staff in a system that is quarterback friendly. I felt this was the best thing for him.
"On top of that, I felt like he was the best thing for us."
Locker said that when he walked off the field after Washington routed California 42-10 in its season finale on Dec. 5 he still wasn't sure what his decision would be. Most thought he'd wait until the NFL Collegiate Advisory Committee gave its evaluation before he made a final decision.
Locker said Friday he's still not sure if that evaluation has arrived. It doesn't matter now.
"I was just happy to make a decision and feel good about the decision I made," Locker said. "I haven't regretted the decision. Since I made it, I haven't second-guessed myself; I've felt really good with it. So, yeah, it's great to have it over with."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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