The first time I ever came in contact with Jake Locker was on the rippled carpet on the floor of the Tacoma Dome after Bellevue High defeated Ferndale in the 3A Washington State Championship game.
I don’t think anyone ever doubted the greatness that would come to the gracious young man, even as he walked away in defeat that evening.
Tonight, Locker and his family and friends will wait to hear when his name, uttered by NFL commissioner Roger Gooddell. Once his name comes off Gooddell’s lips, visions of riches, fame and glory will dance through the minds of his fans.
But I can almost guarantee, no such visions will be in Locker’s mind. Instead, I am guessing, will be visions of what he must do next to achieve the next step on the path to greatness.
Locker is a plain and simple guy. He is genuinely nice, funny, pleasant and — oh yeah — one hell of an athlete. It is something he has heard his entire life, but the sense of entitlement so many others who regularly hear that has escaped Locker.
Before his junior year at Washington, he signed a professional baseball contract with the Anaheim Angels. It probably netted him about a quarter of a million, but you never would have have known.
He bypassed millions to stay at the University of Washington instead of heading to the NFL before his senior season. Maybe you and I can put a price tag on helping turn a program around. Maybe Terrelle Pryor can figure what a trophy is worth. But Locker saw an opportunity — the last chance for a last season. His trophy is invaluable. Winning the Holiday Bowl was priceless.
A sense of entitlement often leads athletes to act macho, treat women poorly, show disrespect to those without as much physical prowess. Not Locker. He signs autographs, befriends kids with cancer, and — as for jersey chasers? Shoot, Locker’s fiancee has a jersey of her own! He is set to marry Lauren Greer this summer. Want to know something about Greer? She’s a national champion, a clutch-hitting softball player who I also had the pleasure of covering a time or two.
So, tonight, after all the speculation and over-analysis, I hope all Locker’s football dreams come true. I hope it is the beginning of a path that brings him nothing but success and happiness. And, I hope that somewhere down the line, I get to give him a high-five and let him know what a pleasure this all been from a sports writer’s perspective.
Plain and simply, Good luck, Jake.