Live from Nashville, aka Seattle South: Same Jake Locker, different city
Posted by Jerry Brewer
This is the second of three reports on the Titans and their Seattle connections. Today: Jake Locker. Yesterday: Mike Reinfeldt. Wednesday: Matt Hasselbeck. And in Thursday's newspaper, I'll write a column about the budding relationship between Locker and Hasselbeck.
Tennessee Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt has a great Jake Locker story. Don't we all, really? If you've spent time around Locker, you learn the darndest things, all of them good.
Before the NFL draft, Reinfeldt and the Titans front office also interviewed Washington linebacker Mason Foster, whom they liked very much. Naturally, the conversation shifted to Locker, the Titans' top target.
"Jake is such a great guy," Foster told the Titans about his teammate. "If anyone on the team called him and asked if he could pick them up, he'd go get them, even if he had to drive through rush-hour traffic. Anyone on the team. That tells you what he's about."
It was another nice anecdote in a pile full of Locker anecdotes. It was another reason for the Titans to believe that their favorite quarterback was truly the right guy.
A few weeks later, the Titans selected the Huskies quarterback No. 8 overall.
Now, Locker is in training camp, looking polished, looking steady, looking better than ever.
Same Jake, only improved.
Locker doesn't change. He evolves. And though he still has significant work left to become a consistent NFL quarterback, it's becoming easier to expect he will develop into the kind of passer his talent suggests he can be.
The heavy scrutiny is over. Locker survived the pre-draft nitpicking and found a team that loves him. On the practice field, he looks comfortable. He belongs. At times, he stands out, minimizing his much-publicized problems with accuracy and showcasing his arm strength by making every throw imaginable.
For certain, some struggles are ahead for Locker. He's a rookie who will likely serve as Matt Hasselbeck's backup this season, limiting his early successes and failures to the practice field. But even in this learning situation, Locker stands out as a legitimate prospect.
"Jake looks good out there," Reinfeldt says. "You see flashes of his talent in every practice. We think he has a chance to be a great quarterback. But with Matt here, Jake can now take his time and learn the position, and we'll play him when he's ready to play. We don't have to rush him."
Locker is fine with this. Typical Jake, he's just enjoying that he gets to play the game. He's reflecting on how much his life has changed in a year.
He's married now. He and former Washington softball player Lauren Greer wed last month. Lauren watched her husband practice Monday with the rest of the fans. Nashville has been good to them.
Locker seemingly has it all now: the family and the career. He's competing like crazy, but he's counting his blessings, too. He remembers the journey here wasn't easy, especially during a hard-luck college career that he willed to make successful.
"It does seem like there have been a lot of steppingstones to get here, but I wouldn't change any of them," Locker says. "And I'm really happy that I have this opportunity now with this organization. It's one that I'm really looking forward to seeing how it turns out."
Locker is down from 231 pounds to 225. He's in fantastic shape. And he's embracing the fact that he's a public figure even more than he did at Washington. Locker has always been professional, but he's taking his charm to another level. He shakes hands with local reporters after practice and addresses them all by their first names. He is approachable at all times for fans. He looks and sounds like a five-year veteran.
Same Jake. Different city.
"I'm just enjoying all of this," Locker says. "It's a great feeling. I've said it a bunch of times, but this last year, I've been able to accomplish a lot of things and make some steps in my life that I'll be proud of the rest of my life. First and foremost is getting married, being able to call Lauren my wife. Kind of the transition that we've gone through, it's exciting. Everything is new, but they're wonderful opportunities for us. I'm having a lot of fun."
Locker, Hasselbeck and the other quarterbacks, Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff, carpool to the practice facility most every day. There's a special, natural camaraderie among the quarterbacks, even though they're competing for jobs. Locker is watching the veteran Hasselbeck and soaking in his example.
"I love being around him," Locker says. "Obviously, he knows the game very well and loves the game. He has a lot of knowledge about the game, on and off the field, and it's nice to be around a guy like that as a young player. He's able to help you grow not only in the offense but in the huddle and in the locker room and outside of the facility. All those sorts of things I think are important in the growth of a young player and especially in the growth of a young quarterback."
What's different? Well, the temperature and humidity in Nashville is nuts for a Pacific Northwest native. Locker laughs about the hot weather and says he's getting used to it. It helps that he received a four-year, $12.586 million contract to play this game. But Locker, who is not an extravagant fellow, will spend his money wisely.
Asked if he has moments in which he realizes he's an adult now, Locker laughs and says, "Your monthly bills remind you of that."
No longer a Washington resident, Locker misses home, but he's learning to appreciate Nashville. He continues to carry his state with him, however. He says he feels the responsibility to represent his home in a positive manner.
"I've always been proud of where I came from and proud of the people who always supported me," Locker says. "I feel that no matter where I am, in some way, competing for them. You are an extension of them. And I think, on and off the field, I don't feel pressure, but I do feel a responsibility of representing the right way. That's going out and doing everything to make myself the best player and person I can be. At the end of the day, that's all anybody can ask of me.
"That's kind of the standard that I always try to hold myself to. My roots will always be there. That's where I grew up, and those people were there with me at the beginning, and I'll never forget that. I get the opportunity to start a new chapter here now."
Yep, that's exactly the Jake Locker we remember.
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