Wherever Jake Locker has gone, success has always followed. But the path to success rarely comes without adversity and grit. Locker’s expedition through the college ranks, and now prospective NFL career, is a blueprint of determination.
Locker did a lot of winning at Ferndale High School in his home state of Washington. He led Ferndale to a 37-4 record and a state title in three years as a starting quarterback.
In that 2005 title year, Locker threw for 1,603 yards and 27 touchdowns and rushed for 1,338 yards and 24 touchdowns.
As a redshirt freshman in 2007 at the University of Washington, Locker put together a Pac-10 Freshman of the Year campaign.
But things changed in 2008, when Locker’s sophomore season was cut short after four games when he broke his thumb, and the Huskies finished with a forgettable 0-12 record.
After Locker’s output his junior year, he was projected by many to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but he decided to return for his senior season.
After their third straight loss on Nov. 6, the decision looked grim, and with every game the Huskies dropped, so did Locker’s draft stock.
“There’s been some frustrating years, but to go out this way—this is the experience I came back for,” Locker said.
“There is a lot of reasons I could probably come up with why I made the decision to come back. But this win, this is exactly it. It’s something I’ll be able to carry with me the rest of my life.”
After rallying his troops for three consecutive wins over UCLA, California and Washington State, in a true showcase of perseverance and resolve, Locker capped off his career in purple with a 19-7 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl.
Locker took what appeared to be a devastating helmet-to-helmet collision with Nebraska safety Austin Cassidy that left him briefly motionless. But the 6-foot-3, 230-pound field general returned on the next series, receiving a roar from the Husky faithful.
“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Locker said. “At first I thought I couldn’t see anything since everything was black, so that’s what I kept telling the coaches. But then they pulled my helmet up from over my eyes and I realized I was all good.”
For Washington, it’s their first bowl win since the 2001 Rose Bowl, and it came with a strong defensive effort and a spirited rushing attack headed by Locker and tailback Chris Polk.
Locker finished with 83 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown run and completed just five passes for 56 yards.
It’s safe to say the Huskies' thoughts didn't travel too far away from the 56-21 embarrassment at home against the No. 18 Cornhuskers on Sept. 18.
“Nebraska is known for their pass coverage, and they can really take advantage and get more defensive backs than you have receivers,” Locker said. “Watching film from that game, coach Sark (Sarkisian) saw that no one on their defense was fully accountable for the quarterback, and told me to pull it down and run if I don’t like what I see.”
For Coach Sark, he definitely likes what he sees with Locker.
“I actually think he’ll be a better pro than college player because he’s got a real pro mentality,” Sark said. “He has tremendous leadership qualities and humility, but also the mindset and willingness to go to work every day and get better. Somebody is going to get a special guy here in a few months.”