Senior Bowl: Jake Locker has no regrets about returning to Washington for final season

The Washington Post's Katie Carrera, LaVar Arrington, Eric Prisbell and Jonathan Forsythe debate whether the Redskins would be better off drafting Auburn quarterback Cam Newton or Washington prospect Jake Locker.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 9:00 PM

MOBILE, ALA. - By 10 p.m. at the Senior Bowl, the bar in the hotel lobby is filled with coaches looking for jobs, reporters looking for scoops and scouts looking for a cold drink after a long day's work. Around the corner, at end of a long hallway in the Renaissance hotel downtown, University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker is still on the clock, answering many of the same questions he's already heard over and over the past couple of days.

This time, it's a scout from the Arizona Cardinals who's asking. He'd already met with more than half the NFL teams this week - from the Seattle Seahawks to the Washington Redskins - and they all asked some variation of the same thing: Why in the world did you return to college for a senior season?

"It's kind of nice," Locker said late Wednesday night, after he completed an exhausting series of nine interviews with NFL teams. "I know the questions are coming, and I have a response ready to go because I just answered the same question a few minutes earlier."

Each time, he makes it sound like he's never even heard the question before, though a new team has quizzed him every 30 minutes since 6 p.m. "I have no regrets," he keeps saying.

Locker, 22, likely cost himself millions of dollars by returning to Washington for a final year. He was a sure-bet top-five pick last spring, but after a shaky senior season, many analysts now project him as the fourth-best quarterback available in April's draft. He's playing in Saturday's Senior Bowl, trying to improve his stock during practices and in meetings with scouts and team officials.

He'll likely enter April's draft as one of the most intriguing players available. Scouts and draft analysts can't seem to agree on how high his ceiling might be and what his NFL future might hold.

"He's a very difficult kid to project as to where he'll go," said Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN's veteran draft analyst. "He could go top-10 -- it wouldn't shock me if somebody wanted to roll the dice. It wouldn't shock me if he went in the second round."

Though the sports world is usually more likely to criticize underclassmen for leaving school early, there has been no shortage of second-guessers who don't understand Locker's decision to stay at Washington one final season.

"Oh, I had guys who've been life-long friends of mine tell me, how could I ever. . . advise him to make a terrible decision like that?" said Locker's father, Scott Locker. "People just have their own opinions about what's important in life."

The past few years of Locker's athletic career have been filled with opportunities - most of which he's chosen to bypass. He could've collected a paycheck when he was drafted by the Angels to play baseball out of high school. But he wanted to go to college. He could've made even more money when the Angels again drafted him in the 10th round in 2009. Again, Locker loved football too much.

Even with the knowledge last spring that teams such as the St. Louis Rams and the Redskins were in dire need of a quarterback with his skills, Locker barely entertained the idea of leaving school early.

"So, when teams ask me now, I just kind of explain my reasoning a bit," said Locker. "My policy is always to be honest. I have nothing to hide. I feel comfortable with the decisions I made and why I made them. . .

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