Selling Jake Locker: Why former Huskies star seems to be everywhere
From national magazines to an ESPN documentary series, former Washington quarterback Jake Locker is popping up all over as the draft approaches. The exposure could help him earn untold riches.
Seattle Times staff reporter
He's no longer just Montlake's Jake.
As the NFL draft approaches, few players have been as visible nationally as former Washington quarterback Jake Locker. He has been front and center, whether as the focus of an ESPN documentary miniseries, the subject of an NFL.com/Gatorade online trailer or the candidate for the cover of the EA Sports "NCAA Football 2012" video game.
It has all been part of a carefully considered plan by Locker's representatives, David Dunn and Camron Hahn of Athletes First. That's the same company that represents NFL quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Rodgers, Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer.
Don't be fooled by Locker seeming to pop up everywhere a football fan might look.
"The one thing that we've noticed about him is that he'll do anything to get out of the spotlight," Hahn said. "There are more things he's turned down than he's accepted because it's not been his focus."
Yet Locker is in a unique spot as the draft approaches. The native of Ferndale in Whatcom County is simultaneously capitalizing for the first time financially on his name after five years at Washington, while still helping publicize the Huskies' program and beginning to craft a national image that could pay off down the road.
One person with knowledge of player endorsements said the image of Locker that comes across in many of these endeavors — small-town hero, close to his family, having initially spurned the NFL to stay in school another year — could help him earn millions off the field in future years.
Dunn won't say how much Locker, who is getting married in July to former UW softball player Lauren Greer, has earned already.
"It hopefully pays for a few dinners at the reception," Dunn said. "But, really, the reason that he started his career with these relationships was less about economics and more about the relationships themselves."
Dunn added that he is generally conservative marketing young players.
"I think it makes sense for them to prove it on the field and then capitalize off the field," he said. "There are a few exceptions to that, with really, really good brands like EA Sports and Gatorade. So it was nice to put Jake in that company to start off his career."
Locker's popularity didn't get him on the cover of "NCAA Football 2012." Running back Mark Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama, topped the voting.
"Sure, he would have liked to have been on the cover," Hahn said of Locker, "but that was all for fun."
Locker was one of three quarterbacks followed in the ESPN series "Three for the Show." The first episode, which debuted Tuesday, focused mostly on Locker's senior season at UW, showing behind-the-scenes footage of Huskies team meetings and the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska. The second and third episodes, which will air the next two Tuesdays, will focus on preparation for the NFL draft.
The other QBs featured are Auburn's Cam Newton and Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor.
Locker wasn't in it just for himself, his agent said.
"I know he enjoyed doing it not only for himself but far more than that for the school," Dunn said.
Locker was also featured in recent weeks on ESPN's "Gruden's QB Camp" a series of half-hour shows in which players have their games broken down in detail by former NFL coach Jon Gruden.
Another Athletes First client, Texas' Colt McCoy, took part in the series in 2010.
"We kind of looked at it as a great opportunity for a young guy to go spend five, six, seven hours with a very well-regarded former NFL head coach who seems to know quite a bit about QBs," Hahn said. "So the TV part is great, but for us, it's also one of those things that you've got an opportunity to spend an entire day with a former NFL head coach and break down film and just talk."
Locker also appears on recent covers of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated.
Hahn says the increase in media opportunities for all players these days lessens the risk of overexposure for one.
"It's kind of gotten to the point that it's all just part of it," he said.
And Locker's story will begin to turn in another direction this week, once he is drafted.
"Absolutely he's got a lot of marketable traits, a lot of things to offer certain companies," Hahn said. "But at the end of the day, he has to perform. What we can do is get together and set things up and make plans for six months out, two years out, five years out. But at the end of the day, it all comes back to Jake.
"No matter who the guy is, if he doesn't perform on the field, it doesn't matter what kind of a person he is. Jake understands that better than probably anyone I've ever worked with. He just gets it, and that's his focus. The other stuff to him is just gravy."
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