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Originally published December 13, 2014 at 1:01 PM | Page modified December 13, 2014 at 10:25 PM

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Jake Locker’s future likely hinges on performance in next three games

With Mettenberger out for the season with a shoulder injury, Locker is again the starting quarterback for a 2-11 team, beginning this week with a game against the similarly 2-11 Jets. Three games, essentially, to audition for a job somewhere, anywhere, in 2015.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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When Scott Locker talks to his son these days, he still hears the same ol’ Jake on the other end of the line.

The same one who was the all-everything quarterback at Ferndale High School.

The same one who, despite not living up to every expectation at the University of Washington, kept the program afloat during its darkest days and ended up the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.

These, though, are decidedly different times for Jake Locker.

Far away from 12th Man Mania, a player who will forever remain one of the best known in state history is playing games that on paper are meaningless, but could well determine the future course of his career.

To recap, the Titans decided last April not to pick up an option on the 2015 season for Locker, making this essentially a make-or-break year for his Tennessee career. That decision came a few months after the team hired Ken Whisenhunt as coach to replace the fired Mike Munchak, who had championed the drafting of Locker in 2011.

When the team struggled out of the gate and Locker suffered another in a string of frustrating injuries, he was benched in favor of rookie Zach Mettenberger.

Now, with Mettenberger out for the season with a shoulder injury, Locker is again the starting quarterback for a 2-11 team, beginning this week with a game against the similarly 2-11 Jets.

Three games, essentially, to audition for a job somewhere, anywhere, in 2015.

As might be expected, Locker has pretty much said all the right things about what has happened, noting that it’s frustrating he hasn’t been able to stay healthy (he’s missed 17 of a possible 39 starts due to a slew of injuries) or win more games when he has been (the Titans are 9-13 in games he has started).

“It is one of the challenges that I have faced this year, and one of the tougher ones probably in my life to this point,” Locker told local reporters this week. “But I think I grew a lot from it, I’ve learned a lot from it, and I am thankful for it.’’

Scott Locker said he hears that same look-on-the-bright-side attitude when he talks to his son.

“He’s always a believer that good things are coming,’’ he said. “So as far as him being down and stuff like that, you just don’t see that out of him a bunch.’’

And life is good for Locker in lots of other ways — his wife, former UW softball player Lauren Greer — gave birth to the couple’s second child, son Cooper, last summer. They live in the offseason in Ferndale in Jake Locker’s grandparents’ house, the same one Scott Locker grew up in.

So in the big picture, he can’t complain.

Nor, his father says, are there any regrets about the decision to stay at Washington for his senior season in 2010.

It’s a decision that on the surface, cost him millions, especially since the hopes of getting a big second contract are now out the window (instead, he’ll likely get something like the one-year, $2.25 million deal Mark Sanchez signed this year with the Eagles).

Recall that it was after the 2010 season that the NFL labor agreement changed, creating a slotting system for rookie contracts that vastly decreased salaries.

Sam Bradford, the No. 1 pick in 2010 draft, got $50 million guaranteed. Linebacker Rolando McClain, taken eighth in 2010, got a five-year, $40 million deal with $23 million guaranteed, roughly twice the deal Locker received a year later when taken in the same spot.

“There’s no doubt that when you look at the things that could have been, the financial things, it’s a huge difference,’’ Scott Locker says. “But the money part has never been a huge equation for him in a lot of the decisions he has made in his life.’’

Scott Locker says Jake came back in large part to enjoy one more year of college, for experiences such as what he got with the Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska --- Washington’s first postseason appearance in eight years.

“I think if you were to ask him the same question he would tell you he doesn’t regret a thing about that decision,’’ Scott Locker said.

Jake Locker also said this week he isn’t worrying about a future far more uncertain than he’d planned.

“When you get caught up spending too much time thinking about the future, you forget to cherish the moment right in front of you,’’ he said.

There’s a game Sunday, he said, and for now that’s all that matters.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.



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