The story surrounding Jake Locker hasn’t really changed much. After defying what was seen as conventional wisdom last year to forgo the NFL Draft and return to the University of Washington for his senior season — at a time when his draft stock was high enough that he was in the conversations as a potential top overall pick — many argued that decision was a mistake.
Locker, who is making the workout rounds for at least three teams, has been steadfast throughout the process that he has no regrets. No regrets because he feels he’s better prepared. No regrets because of the additional year of reps on the field and in the film room. No regrets because he’s admittedly more mature.
During a recent visit to NFL Network, Locker offered a glimpse into what the decision means to him a year later.
What Locker has, right now, is peace of mind.
“Definitely,” he said. “It does help put things in perspective a little bit more, and allow me to really go at this process in a mature way, a focused way. I’m not second-guessing myself, thinking ‘Man, I guess I could be back doing this, I’m not ready for this, I shouldn’t have.’ At this point, it’s a decision I’ve made because my eligibility is done. I feel ready for this process now, and I’m a lot more relaxed and more comfortable with the process because of it.”
Locker knows he would have had lingering feelings in the back of his mind had he left school early, wondering if it was the right move. This time around, he hasn’t regretted it once.
What he’s learning now is that every step of the draft process is validation that his decision was the right one. “I couldn’t agree more” he said about that suggestion.
“Every time I go into an interview (with teams) and they ask me that question, I’m proud to tell them that I was happy I came back, and proud to tell them about the things I accomplished this last year, because they mean something to me,” Locker said. “I think they’ll mean something to me the rest of my life.”
Locker is well-rehearsed in the topic, and it shows. He’s also well-spoken, thoughtful and insightful, defining characteristics that teams are sure to see. He said he’s been asked about the decision by every team, if for nothing more than to see how he’ll react and handle himself.
What he tells teams about the decision is that the personal experience, and the memories, were meaningful to him. The types of things — win or lose, touchdown or incompletion — that don’t go on a stat sheet.
Whether he needed it or not, what Locker is hearing from teams is that they agree with him.
“Across the board, at one point or another, after I’ve answered the questions they have said they agree with me that I made the right decision and I should be proud of what I accomplished,” Locker said. “It’s good to hear that guys who watch the game and follow your season don’t put all the weight on the stats you did or didn’t have and look at your season and how successful you were for what it’s worth.
“Intangibles count for something. I think they count for a lot.”
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