Jake Locker is alot like a young John Elway

Published on April 29, 2011 by     Tacoma News Tribune (Feed)

Kids growing up in Ferndale don’t dream of one day getting drafted by the Tennessee Titans. But Jake Locker may now find himself heading to the perfect destination for the first steps of his NFL career.

The Titans surprised the analysts by using the No. 8 pick to pluck Locker, showing they had none of the ambivalence toward him that some teams expressed.

The Tennessee staff will love Locker because of his work ethic and motivation level.

The Titans’ players will love Locker because of his toughness.

And the city of Nashville will love him because he’s about as far from Vince Young as a player can get. He may not turn into a Pro Bowl quarterback, but he might be voted Mayor of Nashville in time.

More specific to his development, Locker may not be required to step in and play immediately, meaning he may enjoy the luxury of an appropriate apprenticeship.

Even if he has to play soon, he’ll be asked to spend much of his time handing off to one of the league’s best rushers, Chris Johnson. And new head coach Mike Munchak will stress the running game, taking pressure off a young quarterback.

Off the field, he won’t have to face the critical media scrutiny he might in bigger markets.

Jake Locker deserves this.

Since he decided to stay at UW for his senior season – leaving a lot of money on the table – critics have been widely divergent on his prospects, some put off by his inaccuracy, others wowed by his athleticism.

He might have been the first player taken in last year’s draft, and pocketed the millions that attend the honor.

But he wanted to come back to lead UW to a bowl game. He did more than that, he led the Huskies to a bowl victory.

And that’s part of what had to appeal to Tennessee about Locker.

Apparently, the Titans brass understands the difference between being a great quarterback and being a passer. Locker sometimes made shaky decisions and wild passes. Coaching and improved mechanics can correct some of that.

Meanwhile, his leadership, grit and competitiveness will lift everybody else on the team.

The Titans front office has reason to be aware of Locker’s attributes. Top personnel man Ruston Webster was with the Seahawks until last season. Former Seahawks vice president Mike Reinfeldt is the Titans’ GM.

When Locker gets there, he should be in good hands. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer coached Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Mark Brunell and Drew Bledsoe in early stages of their careers.

The Titans have cut ties with Young, a talented but troubled quarterback, and have 17-year veteran Kerry Collins on hand. Collins might be able to handle the position until Locker ripens into it.

Some have suggested that veteran free agent Matt Hasselbeck, currently unsigned by the Sea-hawks, might be a target for the Titans. Picturing Hasselbeck tutoring Locker in Nashville might be tough for football fans in Washington. But for Locker? Perfect.

Locker has a way to go. Absolutely.

Perhaps the most telling insight to his readiness for the NFL came from his UW coach, Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian coached a series of NFL-bound quarterbacks at USC. He knows such things. He once said that he thought that Locker seems like a player who is turning pro after his sophomore season.

The implication is that his first two seasons at UW did not do much to prepare him for the kind of offense he’ll have to operate in the NFL.

So, yes, it is obvious he has a great deal to learn. All NFL rookie quarterbacks do.

At least the Great Jake Locker Draft Debate is over. He was taken early in the first round.

Now he has to prove he’s worthy. And he’s going to be in a good place to do so.

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