In June, I interviewed Washington quarterback Jake Locker for Columns magazine. Being the cover story, I wanted to do something different as many of the stories written about Jake this summer have been similar—he passed on the NFL Draft and is back at the UW for his senior season.I felt Columns, as the University of Washington’s alumni magazine, should do a story that in five years is still a good read. So I wrote about Jake’s charity work. His enthusiasm for working with hospitalized children is inspiring, and it was clear during our interview that he was happy to talk about the work he does off the field.
Don’t miss the full story when Columns drops the first week of September. In the meantime, here are a few extras exclusive to Blog Down to Washington:
When did you first get involved in helping sick children?
Growing up in the family and the community I did in Ferndale, you looked out for other people. It was very community-based. When families needed help, you helped them. I think that was instilled in us from a very young age.
Are the children you get to know a big influence on you?
I’ve always said that I learn more from them than they learn from me. The way they look at it, the way they approach it, they’re always so strong. It’s not going to beat them, and they don’t feel sorry for themselves. To me, that’s amazing. Even if it’s a 6-year-old kid it’s like, hey, this is what I’m dealing with and I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy my life. It’s helped to shape who I am and how I live my life. If they can do it, why can’t I? What’s holding me back from really truly enjoying life every day if they’re able to do it in the situations they’re in? That’s the satisfaction I get out of it.
Has your outlook on football changed because of these experiences?
I’m as competitive a person as you can find. I love playing football and I’ll do it as long as I can. But I do understand there’s a lot more important things in life. At the end of the day, it’s just a game and that’s how you should treat it. You should have fun with it, you should enjoy it, do everything you can to win the game. But also understand that if you lose it’s not the end of the world. Life goes on. There’s other things you need to deal with and will be faced with. Those are the times when the lessons they have taught me really come back.
What else have you come to realize?
It makes you understand that your family, your friends and the people that are close to you and will always be there for you, you need to take the time of day for them. You need to tell them how you feel about them, let them know what they mean to you. Spending time with people and families that have had unfortunate things in their lives—be it somebody that has cancer or gets some kind of illness—I think more than anything it helps you understand what’s important in life. They’ve shown me where your priorities and passions should lie.
Are sports a big part of the work you do with children?
I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with kids that were into athletics but because of the illnesses they have been diagnosed with, it’s hard for them to compete. To me, it’s that much more motivation. The ability to have an impact on somebody’s life, to understand what’s truly important and being appreciative of the talents and abilities that you were given, that you were blessed with, you’re able to grasp all of those things when you spend time with those kids.
What athletic lessons do you take away from the kids you work with?
A lot of the times when you think of those kids, especially for me, is when we’re going through things that are tough. Whether it’s losing games, getting injured, or having a workout that you don’t think you can make it through. Those seem to be the times they come into mind, because as bad as I might think this is, it could be a lot worse. Let’s really look at the situation I’m in. I had the opportunity to play college football and I ended up losing a couple of games in a row with 60,000 fans watching us play. When you look at it that way, it’s like, yes, we lost a couple games.
What can you tell us about the UW Touchdown for Kids program?
Our football team has partnered with Children’s Hospital and you’re able to be a sponsor per touchdown. Say you’d like to donate X amount of dollars per touchdown. However many touchdowns we score throughout the year, you pay that much money. It goes directly to Children’s Hospital and supports the families with travel costs, medical bills, whatever they need help with. That’s the last thing they should have to worry about when their kids are in there. For the alumni to know about that and to support it would be really neat. If we could give a good donation to them and change the lives of some of those families, it’s very rewarding.
Read the full story when Columns magazine goes online and arrives in your mailboxes the first week of September, which is perfect timing as the Dawgs open up the 2010 football season Saturday, Sept. 4 at BYU. Go Huskies!