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Originally published October 22, 2009 at 3:31 PM | Page modified October 22, 2009 at 10:31 PM

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Steve Kelley

The battle for Jake Locker: NFL next year, or senior season at UW?

Washington quarterback would be a high choice if he decides to enter NFL draft next spring.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Only one sports fan in Seattle isn't thinking about Jake Locker's future. That's Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

Believe the junior when he says he hasn't considered his career past his preparation for Saturday's game against Oregon.

Believe him when he says he isn't glued to ESPN, watching Todd McShay and Mel Kiper debate his future. He isn't dangerously close to a case of carpal tunnel caused by constant online perusing of his draft status.

So the speculation is left to the rest of us. The debate, these next months, will be conducted passionately by Huskies boosters and NFL draft mavens.

But imagine for just a moment that Locker did allow the future to creep into his thinking. Imagine the internal debate.

In the cinematic classic "Animal House," actor Tom Hulce is tormented by a decision that could change his life, or at least his night. As he considers his options, an angel sits on one shoulder, a devil on the other. They tug him between right or wrong.

In Locker's case, the angel on one shoulder would be Washington's fans, desperate for his return next season. On the other shoulder, the devil, the NFL, sitting and luring him with promises of multimillion-dollar bonuses.

Locker listens:

ANGEL: So finally in your fourth year here, after the redshirt, the injuries, the losses and the coaching change, everything is coming together for you. You're thriving in coach Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense. People are saying you're the best college quarterback in the nation. And just imagine how good you're going to be with one more year under this system.

DEVIL: One more year? Is he nuts? Jake, you could be the first quarterback taken in the 2010 draft. I'm rooting my heart out for you to win for Washington this year, but let's be honest, "The Game," the NFL, we are calling you. And we rarely hear the word "No."

ANGEL: Jake, look at the quarterback competition in the draft. Sure, I know Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will likely have shoulder surgery. But modern medicine being what it is, he'll be ready by April's draft day, and he's still the top quarterback on the board.

DEVIL: Don't be so sure about that. Bradford's already dropped on some boards from the first overall pick to the 10th. The NFL still hasn't seen how he reacts to adversity. This was supposed to be the year he had to prove himself with a reconstructed offensive line. He never got that chance.

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And let's not forget, he loves Oklahoma. He said he came back this season to win a national championship. Maybe he'll come back next year and try it again. So if you don't leave after this season, you might have a healthier Bradford lurking next year.

ANGEL: Speaking about postseason experiences, do you really want to leave Washington before you quarterback this team to a big-time bowl game?

Don't get me wrong, the Poinsettia Bowl this season, with a 6-6 record, would be a nice first step. But don't you feel like you have something more you want to get out of your college experience? Couldn't next year be a Holiday Bowl season? Or, dare we dream, a Rose Bowl experience?

DEVIL: What decade is he living in? Look, Jake, you've done your job at Washington. You've already helped point the Huskies in the right direction. Besides, what would be wrong with ending your career in the Poinsettia Bowl? Nothing wrong with spending a week in December in San Diego. That's my kind of weather.

ANGEL: Let's change the subject. Have you seen the lowlights of New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez's five-interception loss last Sunday to Buffalo? Does he look ready to be an every-weekend NFL quarterback to you?

DEVIL: Have you seen Mark Sanchez's contract? Just to refresh your memory, he signed a five-year, $50.5 million deal, $28 million of which is guaranteed.

ANGEL: But what's the rush, Jake? The college years are the best years of your life.

DEVIL: What's the rush? Is he kidding you? Stay at the U-Dub next season and you lose a year of earning power. This is business, Jake. Serious business. And, take it from me, when the coaches and GMs and scouts see you running 40-yard sprints faster than the running backs? And they still see you throwing passes that stretch for 70 yards? Well, all I can say is Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching.

ANGEL: You love the University of Washington, Jake.

DEVIL: Did I forget to mention that before he ever threw a pass, Mark Sanchez became the highest-paid player in Jets history?

ANGEL: Think purple, Jake.

DEVIL: Think gold. Real gold.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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