SAN DIEGO — He leaves as a winner.
Jake Locker ran over to the corner of Qualcomm Stadium to lingering Huskies fans chanting his name. He raised his helmet, pumped his fist, tapped his heart. Fans chanted his name.
Five years after it began, his Washington career ended on soggy turf in chilly San Diego. His purpose in passing on the NFL to return for his senior year for, what he wanted all along, was accomplished. Locker left with a winning season (7-6) and a bowl title.
“This is the experience I came back for,” Locker said. “It’s been some frustrating years. But to go out this way … I’m proud to be part of this program, part of this football team.”
Locker did it against the team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, that made him look his worst. The 4-for-20 performance from the Sept. 18 game was upgraded by a smartly executed 5-for-16 passing performance, thoroughly enhanced by 13 carries for 85 yards. In a 19-7 Holiday Bowl victory that closed the season with a fourth consecutive triumph, Locker and his mates repaid the 56-21 whipping.
In his final game, his speed, guts and decision-making were exemplary. Humility was in tow, per usual.
During the on-field, post-game trophy presentation, defensive MVP Mason Foster spoke to the crowd. Offensive MVP Chris Polk spoke to the crowd. Head coach Steve Sarkisian shouted to the crowd. Locker, after being surrounded for two ESPN interviews, was standing near the podium with teammates watching the speakers. When the crowd chanted his name, Sarkisian tried to coax Locker to the microphone. Locker shook his head and stayed put.
“I think so much was made of why he came back was for the Heisman or this or that,” Sarkisian said. “The reality of it was he came back for this moment.”
Locker posed for pictures, took in hugs, celebrated on the field with tears in his eyes. He even signed a ball for backup quarterback Keith Price to give to a friend.
Locker provided all with a scare in the second quarter. After his cranium was rattled by simultaneous hits on a first-down run, he was face down, prone and still. Kind of a funny story, actually.
“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” Locker said. “My helmet came down, hit me on my nose. The front of my face was kind of numb.
“My helmet was covering my eyes, so I couldn’t open my eyes up. They were asking me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I’m saying, ‘I can’t see anything!’ ”
Locker was persuaded it was his helmet. Upon adjustment, he sheepishly realized the truth.
Even that seemingly dark moment turned out positive on a day when many things had to go well, and did. Now, Locker turns to his much-debated future in the NFL.
“I actually think he’ll be a better pro because he’s got a real pro mentality,” Sarkisian said. “He has the work ethic and the drive to make that happen.
“Somebody’s going to get a special guy here in a few months.”
This is a sports story worth finding.
Ah, if the P-I print were still around, this would be an issue to frame!
MVP#1 – D-E-F-E-N-S-E
MVP#2 – Offensive Line
MVP#3 – Locker & Polk
It’s a darned proud day which has been a long time coming. God bless these coaches and kids – they were well prepared, had the right mental attitude, and played a game that will never be forgotten.
INSPIRING WIN!! BELONGS UP THERE WITH THE BEST OF THEM…
I’m imagining how Locker might look in a Seahawk’s uniform…
Not only am I reminded of the running game that was Don James’ identity at the U, but I also go back to the days of Chuck Allen, Roy McKasson, Don McKeta, Ray Jackson, Bob Schloredt when 13 passes a game was a lot. Those back to back Rose Bowl teams of 1960 and ’61 came to mind last night in watching Chris Polk run around, over and through the Cornhuskers. Jim Owens-style football was back, even if it was just for a little while, especially in this game and the one against UCLA.
Heaven help the foes of Washington. It is indeed nice to say that again with feeling.
That was Husky football!
Perhaps the best game we have played against a quality opponent w something at stake in years, perhaps a decade. I was curious to see if Sark & crew could come up w something (a la DJ) in the prep & am relieved to see we came ot ready. Kudo’s to the players who have come so far. That type of intensity & fight will lay the foundation for good things in the future.
BFD — one team wanted to play, the other team didn’t. Don’t read too much into this game.
“The 4-for-20 performance from the Sept. 18 game was upgraded by a smartly executed 5-for-16 passing performance, thoroughly enhanced by 13 carries for 85 yards.”
Is that a joke?
I’ve never been so proud to be a Husky than I am now. Thanks for bringing class, dignity, and winning back to Seattle, Jake and Sark!!
I sure hope Jake doesn’t wind up a sea chicken; I’d hate to see him waste a career in Seattle.