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Jake Locker, a Husky legend
Rich Linde, 14 December 2010

Regardless of the outcome of the Holiday Bowl, quarterback Jake Locker's legacy at Washington has already been etched in stone. It reads: "Jake Locker, a Husky legend."

Without Locker next season, coach Steve Sarkisian's rebuilding effort will mainly rest with the defense, a horrifying thought indeed. Sark and defensive coordinator Nick Holt must significantly improve Washington's rushing defense (103rd in the FBS), for example, lest the rebuilding mode suffer a major setback. (See the Tangible Evidence).

The Locker-less thought aside, Jake will be remembered best at Washington for his:

Athleticism: In my opinion, Locker is the most gifted athlete ever to play quarterback for the Huskies.

Former Washington quarterback Hugh Millen has said, "I believe that Jake Locker is the greatest athlete to ever come out of the state of Washington."

Loyalty: Returned to Washington for his senior season, though many experts regarded him as a likely first-round NFL draft pick in 2010. His goal was to lead the Huskies to a bowl game in his last season. Mission accomplished!

Synergism: The fact Locker was a threat to run on the zone read made his running backs Chris Polk (2009, 2010) and Louis Rankin (2007) much more effective runners. The power running back the Huskies lacked, Locker (6-foot-3, 230; 4.39 in the 40) gave the Huskies a synergistic ground game over his career. For example, Washington's (4-9, 2-7)  rushing attack in 2007 ranked second in the Pac-10 (203.1 YPG).

His presence on the team made the recruiting task easier for both coach Steve Sarkisian and former coach Tyrone Willingham. Willingham's 2008 recruiting class was ranked fourteenth best in the country by scout.com. Scout ranked Sarkisian's 2010 class eleventh.

Leadership: In 2010, he led the Huskies to their first bowl game since 2002 -- back from the infamous 0-12 season in 2008, which led to the dismissal of Willingham. Jake went 6-5 for games played in his last regular season, not to say the Huskies would have won the Oregon game, which he missed because of a broken rib. In this vein, Jake was 8-5 over his last thirteen regular season games dating back to the 2009 Apple Cup and 7-3 in the Pac-10 over the same period.

The Drives: In 2010, he led Washington on three last-possession, game-winning drives (61, 79, 88 yards) against USC, Cal, and WSU.

Sarkisian called Locker's performance in the USC game, "legendary." "Games like that are how legends are made," he added.

USC coach Lane Kiffin called Locker's play phenomenal, that he was the worry all week, that he would play like that. "He is a great player and he showed why."

After a Locker-led, 63-yard drive engineered against USC in 2009, which resulted in a winning field goal, former USC coach Pete Carrol said, "The difference was Jake; that's a great player." (See the legendary photo above, which was taken after the game).

More quotes: After Washington's 30-0 win over WSU in the 2009 Apple Cup, WSU coach Paul Wulff said, "The difference in the game was number 10 on their team. Jake Locker, he runs it, throws it, runs it, throws it. He's almost a one-man show out there."

The sweep: In 2010, Locker led the Huskies to a sweep of the southland; the last time Washington beat both UCLA and USC in the same season was in 1996.

Courage: Playing with a broken rib, Locker led the Huskies to wins over their last three opponents this season, two of them (Cal and WSU) on the road, insuring a bowl invitation.

Awards: Named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 2007. Twice won the Guy Flaherty Award Most Inspirational Award (2009, 2010), the UW's oldest and most prestigious team honor. With unimpeachable character and outstanding leadership qualities, Locker is only the fourth player ever to win the Flaherty Award more than once, joining Tom Wand (1911-12), Don McKeta (1959, 1960), and Jordan Reffett (2006-07). Note that Wand was an honorary letter winner in 1912 and listed as a substitute.

Records: Set a UW and Pac-10 record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 987 yards ... 987 yards were also good enough to rank second most in a career by a UW quarterback and the most-ever for a freshman.

Stoicism: Never one to complain, Jake, over his career, has never once talked about dropped balls, missed blocks or the unreasonable hype that some self-styled experts have used to measure his performance against, some in the media ballyhooing him as a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2010, even though Washington was in a rebuilding mode and hardly an Auburn. (See Heisman Jake: the Straw Man).

A quick study: Playing behind a makeshift offensive line his last two seasons, Locker raised his career passing efficiency from 104.68 (2008) to 119.78 (2010), which is a remarkable achievement considering he was forced to roll out and throw on the run on many of his snaps.

Much, much more: Add them here.

Figure 1. Locker's improvement in career passing efficiency over his last 23 games. (104.68 - 119.78). Call it the Sarkisian/Nussmeier effect. Note the two dips in stats that are outlier with the rest: (1) after the game against Nebraska (ranks number 2 in FBS football in pass efficiency defense) and (2) after the OSU game (injury to ribs).

Figure 2. Locker's career passing efficiency in his first 16 games (the 2007/2008 seasons (starting at 136.46 and ending at 104.68). This flat-line performance measure ascended upwards the last two years of his career, excepting the data outlier with the rest, which are due to a broken rib and Nebraska's strong passing-efficiency defense. (See Figure 1).


Richard Linde can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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