Every kid grows up throwing the football around on the playground dreaming of playing for his hometown team. The thought of winning it all and becoming a legend and hero in your city is certainly enticing.
In high school, his skills were obvious, as he was a man among boys. Locker became one of the top recruits in the nation as well as a top baseball prospect. His love was for football and he chose to stay at home and play with the University of Washington.
Once he signed, Husky fans believed they had found their key back to being a top-tier football program. Locker would be the savior. Locker would bring back the pride to Washington football.
That’s a lot of pressure to heap on an 18-year-old kid. Locker seemed to handle it okay, and although it took a while, the Huskies finally got back to a bowl game in 2010—Locker’s senior year.
Locker was being heralded as the surefire No. 1 pick after his junior year at Washington. He decided to stay in college one more year—one more year to get to that bowl game and one more year playing in a pro-style offense.
Would Jake Locker face too much pressure in Seattle?
Unfortunately, while the team improved overall, Locker seemed to regress a bit. His accuracy was down and he struggled reading defenses. It wasn’t all his fault, however, as the Husky offensive line was sieve-like at times and Locker faced a lot of pressure.
Locker’s pro prospects took a hit with his disappointing senior season. He found himself labeled as a late first-round or possible second-round player. Many people note his accuracy deficiencies as the main reason for his fall.
Seems like a lock, right? Hometown hero drafted to lead hometown pro football team. This is the childhood dream come true. They write scripts about this kind of stuff.
But this isn’t a good match. For several reasons, it’s in both Locker’s and the Seahawks' best interest if they steer clear of each other.
Locker need look no further than fellow Washington State high school and college star Drew Bledsoe.
Bledsoe grew up in Walla Walla, Washington, and was a star at Washington State University. When he was up to be drafted in 1993, it was either him or Notre Dame’s Rick Mirer to be the No. 1 pick.
Seattle fans never got to see Bledsoe in a Seahawks uniform as New England took him with the first pick. Bledsoe went on to a pretty great career in New England and Seattle got stuck with Mirer.
A couple of years after the draft, Bledsoe said in an interview that he was actually relieved Seattle did not draft him. He felt that if they had, he would face the added pressure of being a hometown kid and that he would never escape it. If he came home to Walla Walla, Seahawks fans would be there and going to the grocery store would mean facing fans. He wanted home to be a sanctuary.
Locker would face even greater pressure and the expectations might be unreasonable.
Could he ever live up to them? Super Bowls would be expected, and even if he went on to have a Matt Hasselbeck-level of success he would be seen as a failure if they didn’t win the big one.
The team would face tremendous pressure to play Locker right away. Locker needs work. He needs to sit for a year or two to work on mechanics, accuracy and learn how to read defenses.
If Seattle drafts Locker, the fans will be clamoring for him to play after every Matt Hasselbeck incomplete pass. Will that force them to run Locker out there before he’s ready? What effect will that have on him?
In Carolina last year, Jimmy Clausen was thrown to the wolves and clearly wasn’t ready. He had a terrible year and by the end looked battered.
Will Clausen ever recover? Would Locker under the same circumstances?
What Locker needs is to get drafted by any other team—a team that can afford to let him start the season as a backup, soaking up everything he can from a good coach and a veteran quarterback.
Seattle needs the same. If they pick up a young quarterback, they need to allow him to study for a year or two before handing over the reins.
In today’s high-pressure NFL, leading the hometown team may be more of a nightmare than that kid on the playground realizes.