Rarely do we see a great college athlete return to their given collegiate sport following a successful season. Even rarer is when they return for another college season and almost become a complete non-factor in the following draft. For the ingredients above, please find the recipe titled, "Jake Locker".
When Jake Locker completed his junior season at Washington, he was atop the Heisman watch list. Needless to say he did not take home the hardware. Mark Ingram shined out of Alabama that year. Like Locker, Ingram saw his stock value drift south due to his decision to return to the NCAA.
Jake Locker would have been an outstanding addition to any team in the 2010 draft, according to the draft experts, of whom 99 percent felt was the case. Locker returned to college football the next year, where he had a good season, not as great as the one before, but definitely respectable.
In 2010, Locker passed for 2,800 yards on 395 attempts, giving him a 58.2 completion percentage. In 2011, he passed for 2,265 yards on 332 attempts, giving him a 55.4 completion percentage. While the numbers were not as good, the reasons belie the statistics. With the emergence of RB Chris Polk, it allowed head coach Steve Sarkisian to balance out his offensive attack, in turn giving Locker less "exposure".
This is another classic case of why we see college athletes bolt for the professional ranks. These college players, who should be basking in the college spotlight they so rightfully deserve, are pressured to get out while they can. Locker made a wise decision to graduate and make a run towards a BCS National Title (unlikely for Washington last year, but one can dream). Instead of encouragement, the 21-year old gets ridiculed for not taking the money while he can. A very common theme in NCAA athletics.
In our legislature, there's a stalling tactic our congressmen use that's called a filibuster. A great example of one was given by Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent out of Vermont. The basis of this eight-hour filibuster was about the greed America possesses, about the world that we so wrongfully think we own and operate. Trickle-down economics? Try trickle-down expectations. Trickle-down selfishness.
We turn our college scholars and athletes into blank checks and pass them around hobo-style to different sports media and beg for more coverage and more highlights. Whatever it takes to get this specimen drafted. Because they sure as hell aren't people anymore. They have become nothing more than experiments.
Jake Locker was one of the smartest players that entered the NFL draft this past year. His mental ability to break down defenses is almost unmatched. Please save all of the opinions of him playing against PAC-12 defenses. Defensive schemes are defensive schemes, regardless of what climate they are being executed in.
Locker can also move with the ball. He can scramble, throw and pick apart defenses. Even with all of this talent, people still hold judgment over the kid because he didn’t perform at the same level as a senior that he did as a junior. If you need to, re-read the previous sentence and welcome to Jake Locker's best intangible asset as an NFL rookie.
Many NFL rookies came right out of being in the spotlight of their college programs, if not the spotlight of the nation. It is very difficult to go directly to the bottom of the totem-pole before getting a single rep with your new squad. Jake Locker had been through this territory, so there are no more surprises for him.
Approaching the end of the 2010-11 football season, very few positives could be found regarding Jake Locker. People thought he let his team down, that he no longer cared as much about the sport. All of which was simply speculation, but even you and I believe speculation sometimes. Locker has dealt with the mental roller coaster of having fans love you and then hate you.
Locker has been in the locker room when his teammates questioned his ability to still perform at the top level. He’s ready. He doesn’t need the “by-the-book” training guide that head coach Mike Munchak thinks he can deliver. Lest we forget, Munchak is a rookie as well. The Titans should have given a three-year, multi-million dollar deal to a defensive player that the Titans so desperately need, even more so now that Stephen Tulloch is leaving the Music City.
Now, the Titans have an unwarranted promise out to Matt Hasselbeck that he will be the starter for at least all of 2011. Don't get me wrong, I think Hasselbeck can still play. He has always been a leader and he proved in the Seahawks' first-round win against the Saints in last year’s NFL playoffs that he still competes. But his position could have been filled by Locker, allowing the Titans to spend their money elsewhere.
Predicting is the hardest task to do in all of life. A prediction is nothing short of a wild guess. Does Locker need some time to ramp up? Maybe. Could he have started and had a Sam Bradford-like demeanor and success rate? Possibly. Time will tell, Titans fans.