He put off professional football for a year, then turned down an invitation to attend the draft.
And yet when it came time for University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker to finally get a call from an NFL team Thursday night, the league didn’t leave him waiting long.
Locker was the eighth player, and second quarterback, selected in Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft. Forty-five minutes in, the former UW star was selected by the Tennessee Titans, who are looking for a replacement for former first-round pick Vince Young.
“I think we have a new culture here at the quarterback spot,” Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer told the Associated Press on Thursday night, “a guy that’s going to be the first one in (the facility and) the last one out.”
Locker was in the garage of a relative’s home in Ferndale, Wash., rather than in New York City when he got the call less than an hour into the draft. He was chosen eighth overall – higher than most analysts had expected.
Locker became the first UW quarterback to be selected in the first round. He’s also the highest Huskies draft pick, regardless of position, since defensive tackle Steve Emtman was taken first overall in the 1992 draft.
“As a competitor, you want to get drafted as high as possible. I wanted to go as high as I could,” Locker told reporters in a conference call Thursday night. “I did not want to come up with the expectations and expect to go in the top 10, expect to go even in the first day. I was very happy with how this process went for me.”
Locker has been a hot topic in draft discussions for 16 months, having pulled his name out of the 2010 NFL draft in Dec. 2009. At that point, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. pronounced that it was “etched in stone” Locker would be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
But Locker had an underwhelming senior season that was marred by injury, inaccuracy and a plummeting draft stock that eventually led Kiper to project him as a second-round pick.
Locker’s stock rose after all-star games, the combine and pro workouts, and he gradually moved up mock draft boards in recent weeks. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said after the selection that one NFL executive had called Locker “the anti-Vince Young.”