SEATTLE - When some team calls Jake Locker’s name at the NFL draft next month, the former University of Washington quarterback will receive the news among family and friends in Ferndale.
Locker, who projects as a possible first-round pick come April 28, said Wednesday that he declined the league’s invitation to New York for the draft ceremonies.
“It’s an honor, and I appreciate the invite,” he said. “But for me, I want to be with the people that have been with me my whole life and helped me get to this point. I want to share that experience with them, and not all of them would be able to come to New York with me. So for me, it makes more sense to be home, where I grew up and where this all started.”
By most indications, Locker helped his chances of an early selection with a 38-of-40 passing performance at the UW pro day Wednesday at Dempsey Indoor.
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About 200 NFL scouts and media members were on hand to measure and watch Locker, linebackers Mason Foster, Victor Aiyewa and Brandon Huppert, offensive linemen Cody Habben and Ryan Tolar, defensive backs Nate Williams and Vonzell McDowell, and backs/receivers D’Andre Goodwin, Austin Sylvester and Dorson Boyce.
However, the main attraction was Locker, who threw 40 passes of varying directions and lengths without a pass rush or defensive backs. He completed his first 35 throws before slightly overthrowing two of the next three long, post patterns to Goodwin, who may have been tiring.
“I thought he threw great,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Not only the ball coming out of his hand and the accuracy, I thought his feet were good. I thought he had great demeanor. It’s not an easy workout to throw that many balls in a row. I think he ended 38 of 40, and the two he missed were pretty dang good throws, too. It was a nice performance.”
Locker said this was his best postseason performance, building on work at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
“I was more consistent,” he said. “I think there were a few throws in the combine that I didn’t like and I would have liked to do over again. And today I felt like every throw came off of my hand good. I felt confident, and it went where I wanted it to.”
Of course, the opinions that count come from NFL scouts, coaches and front offices.
Those were well-represented Wednesday. Among them were the familiar faces of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and former UW coach Keith Gilbertson, now a senior offensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. The Tennessee Titans, who are in need of a quarterback, sent several representatives.
“I think he helped himself considerably,” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst at NFLDraftScout.com. “The thing is . . . It’s not so much the one pro day. It’s the fact that he’s shown significant improvement every step of the process, from him being here at the University of Washington, to the Senior Bowl, to the combine, to now pro day, you are seeing the steps of improvement. That’s the evidence teams are looking for that may cause them to believe that he could be a face-of-the-franchise starting quarterback in the NFL.”
Foster also seemed to help himself, especially by running the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, after clocking 4.75 at the combine. He projects as an upper-middle-round draft pick.
“It’s been a dream since I was 9 years old,” Foster said. “You dream of running out there with your favorite team, and each day it gets closer and closer. So, I’m excited to see at the end of April where I end up.”
The first round of the NFL draft is April 28, the second and third rounds on April 29, and the fourth through seventh rounds April 30.
UW’s pro day lasted about three hours, and included player measurements and testing, running and agility drills, and individual player workouts by position.
Sarkisian was asked what message he had for the scouts.
“Just get used to coming out more,” he said. “We’ve got some more guys down the pipe coming.”
Staff photographer Joe Barrentine and The Associated Press contributed to this report.