By the mid-2000’s, the once proud Washington Huskies football program had fallen on hard times. But there was a young kid from Ferndale, Washington that was expected to help them turn things around. Quarterback Jake Locker could do it all on the football field as he possessed a strong arm coupled with tremendous running ability and upon his arrival to Washington, he gave the Huskies some hope. In 2007, Locker was the Pac-10 Conference’s Freshman of the Year. Locker could have left school after his junior year and become the first overall pick of the National Football League Draft, but he opted to return to Washington for his senior season and he helped the Huskies win their first bowl game since the 2001 Rose Bowl. Locker would still be a hot commodity as he was the eighth overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.
Locker would spend the majority of his rookie season with the Titans on the sidelines and watching veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck take the majority of the snaps. Locker would be named as the Titans starting quarterback in 2012, but injuries never allowed him to play a full season. And when Mike Munchak was fired in 2014 as the Titans head coach and replaced by Ken Whisenhunt, Locker would be fighting an uphill battle as Whisenhunt wasn’t the head coach that brought him to Nashville. Now at the age of 26, Locker has decided to walk away from football.
Some people are shocked by Locker’s move to retire, but you really can’t be. The NFL like anything else is a business. Players are paid handsomely for their athletic ability, but it is something that they must eat, sleep, and drink 24 hours a day in order to be successful. Locker was a first round pick and as a quarterback, he was expected to be the face of the franchise which is something that everyone can handle. Locker had also dealt with fair share or injuries. In 2013, Locker suffered a crippling hip injury in a game against the New York Jets and he has not been the same ever since. Being a professional athlete is tough and it is even tougher when the injuries begin to mount as sometimes doubt can creep in to one’s mind. Locker rehabbed from his hip injury and he suffered some setbacks last season as well. And where you’re dealing with a league like the NFL that is full of alpha males, players are accustomed to being the top dog, and when they’re not, it can be tough for them to deal with it. Locker never became the top dog with the Titans in part due to the coaching change that was made there. There may have been an opportunity for him to move on to another team and get a fresh start, but that wasn’t the case as he decided to walk away. Also you’re dealing with supreme athletes in the NFL that have never really had to face on ton of adversity on the athletic field which can be tough to deal with when it does happen. Previously Locker’s speed and strength always got him out of trouble, but in the NFL it wasn’t as easy to dodge defensive linemen and linebackers as it was in high school and college.
Prior to joining the Titans, Locker had only lived in the State of Washington. Nashville is 2,483 miles away from Ferndale and there is the possibility that Locker simply got homesick. There is nothing wrong with that being that Locker like the rest of us is simply human. Locker is going to take time now and spend with his family and who’s to say that he won’t get the itch to play football once more down the road. But you cannot knock a guy like Locker who knew that it was time to walk away from football when his heart was no longer in it as opposed to being the guy that hung around simply just to collect a paycheck.
As of now Locker will finish his National Football League career with a record of 9-14 as a starting quarterback to go along with 4,967 passing yards, 27 touchdowns passes, and 22 interceptions, and we can only wonder what could have been for him.