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Senior Bowl: Jake Locker has no regrets about returning to Washington for final season
"I don't expect them all to understand. They didn't experience what I did, they didn't go through what I did, they didn't create the memories that I did."
His father explains that the decision came down to priorities and values. Locker's parents didn't attend college. His father hung drywall for a living, his mother was an office manager and his upbringing was hardly extravagant.
"I'd bring him with me," his father said. "He'd come and not necessarily do all the work, but he'd be there at the job site, watching, seeing what goes into it and what the work was all about.
Said Jake Locker: "What my dad does isn't necessarily glamorous. You don't get praised for what he does. But he always worked hard enough to provide for our family. He always took pride in his work. I never needed for anything and I was always thankful for what I got."
This time, Locker is embracing his opportunity for a pro career with vigor. He has been working out in Southern California with former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien, a two-time Pro Bowler who also helped Cincinnati's Carson Palmer prepare for the draft. They've broken down film, frame by frame, and have been fine-tuning Locker's motion and working on repetition.
"After looking at the film, to be kind about it, Jake was the integral part of their offense," said O'Brien, who spent 11 seasons with the New York Jets, Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. "In my opinion, they didn't have the talent to do a lot of the things they would've liked to have done schematically, so I think a lot fell on Jake's shoulders to make plays."
In his senior season, Locker's passing numbers - yards, completion percentage, touchdowns - all suffered a significant drop-off from his junior season. Yet Locker insists: "I'm better in every way because I chose to come back. No doubt about it."
His job these next two months is to convince the NFL. In practices this week at the Senior Bowl, he's been inconsistent and his accuracy continues to concern some scouts.
"When you look at Locker, if you can't get it done against college defenses, are you going to get it done against the NFL?" Kiper asked.
Kiper projects Locker as the 25th-best player in the draft. His ESPN colleague, Todd McShay, predicts Locker will be selected by Tennessee with the eighth overall pick. Either way, Locker won't receive a $50 million contract like the one the Rams awarded to Sam Bradford, last year's No. 1 overall pick. Last year's No. 25 pick - Denver quarterback Tim Tebow - signed a deal worth less than $10 million.
NFL scouts and front-office officials say Locker might not have the physical tools to step in and start right away, but they like his intangibles and he seems to impress in meetings.
His decision might have cost Locker money, but when he explains his passion for the game and how much he appreciated his senior season, his sincerity is difficult to question.
"If there's a better job in the world than playing football and getting paid for it, I've never heard of it," said Locker. "I've played it for free my whole life. And now, to have this dream manifest itself and come to a head here, it's just an incredible opportunity. "