Five years ago, Jake Locker set foot on the UW campus and energized the fan base with his lightning-quick speed and million-dollar smile. On Thursday, Nov. 18, Locker and 16 other Washington seniors will play their final game at Husky Stadium. It is the first Thursday night game at home for the UW since 1939.It’s been a rough go for this group, but they are helping to right the ship and Locker, in particular, has given us reason to hope. His work ethic, passion for Husky football and all-around character epitomize what this university is all about. In recognition of Jake’s last game at home, here are a few quotes left over from my pre-season interview with the UW quarterback.
Read the full story in the December issue of Columns.
What were your thoughts upon signing with the UW in 2005?
This program was comfortable being at the top of the Pac-10. If you weren’t winning it you were second and playing for it at the end of the season. Year in and year out you were competing for a Pac-10 title, and then you have your really good teams that are competing for national titles. Everybody who’s signed their letter of intent in the last five years has had that belief. This is a program that can be in the top of the Pac-10 and in the top of the country. That’s where I wanted to end up when I got done, and that’s where I thought this program realistically could go.
Can you compare the program now to where it was when you first arrived?
We’ve taken a big step forward. It was obviously tough the first couple of years. We didn’t do what we wanted to. We’ve always had the talent to win, but some guys were going different ways and buying into different things. Some were with the program and some weren’t. I think for the first time since I’ve been here, everybody believes in the same thing, believes in the same idea, the same goals, and is working together to achieve them. To me, that’s what’s going to make us successful. That’s why this year and going forward feels a lot different than it has in the past.
How satisfying will it be if you can lead the Huskies back to a bowl game?
Everybody who’s been here the past five years or been part of it at some point understands how cool it would be to be part of this turnaround. We have great support here in Seattle, even with the lack of success. The people really want something to root for, and I think everybody on the football team and on the staff is hoping this is the year we can give them something to be excited about.
Have the past struggles made you a stronger person?
There’s a lot of things in the game of football that apply directly to life. The lessons you learn playing sports, I would argue they’re better than any other setting. To really understand and grasp the sense of teamwork and accountability and responsibility, all of those things that if you apply them in your everyday life you’re a better person because of it, you get from being on a football team. Going through the ups and downs that we’ve gone through, it’ll be that much more rewarding when we have success because we know what it feels like to be on the other end. The amount of work you put in to get that very minimal amount of return is tough, so I think to be rewarded for the efforts you put in all year round, you could have a lot of satisfaction in that.
What are the lessons you take from the ups and downs?
We have the right attitude and the right mentality now. We have experienced some pretty bad lows as a unit, and because of that you do appreciate the things around us, the program we’re in, the support we get. Just having the opportunity to play Division I football, it becomes what it should be—a blessing. You’re very fortunate to be able to do this. I think there’s a good understanding of that on our football now. It’s not taken for granted. It’s respected and it’s treated with a higher honor than it used to be.
Thank you, Jake. Thank you, seniors. And good luck the rest of the season!
Washington hosts UCLA on Thursday at 5 p.m. in a nationally-televised ESPN game. The team will be wearing black uniforms and fans are encouraged to don black as well. If you’re looking for somewhere to hang before the game, check out Dawgs in the Dempsey, a warm and dry alternative for your tailgating plans.