FERNDALE - Jake Locker's dad brought three things to the NFL draft party being held for his son on Thursday - a Minnesota Vikings hat, a Tennessee Titans T-shirt and a whole bunch of cigars.
While the rest of the football world had no idea where the Ferndale football prodigy was about to begin his NFL career, his father had a pretty good idea.
Eight picks into the 2011 draft and one of Scott Locker’s choices turned out be prophetic. For Jake Locker, being selected eighth overall by the Tennessee Titans was even more than he could have expected.
“It’s a dream come true,” Jake Locker said during a press conference at Ferndale High School. “It’s something I’ve thought about since I was a young kid. Now to live it out is rewarding.”
After much speculation, the University of Washington product ended up being the second quarterback chosen during Thursday’s draft behind overall No. 1 pick Cam Newton of Auburn. The early selection was particularly rewarding for Locker, who passed up a chance at being a likely top selection in last year’s draft for the opportunity to return to UW for a tumultuous senior season.
He helped the Huskies to a Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska, but draft gurus also raised questions about his passing accuracy. Many experts had him dropping out of the top 10 and even falling into the second round in the days heading up to the draft.
“I’ve always said where I got drafted wasn’t what I was concerned with,” Locker said. “I feel great about this, not only because it was the eighth pick, but because it’s a great situation, a great football team and a great organization. It’s a team that I’ll be proud to be a part of.”
When he finally got the call from the Titans with about six minutes remaining before they had to make a selection, Locker was elated. It also likely put to rest some of the question marks about his skills leading up to the draft.
“I know what I’m capable of,” Locker said. “I always have. I’ll believe in that forever no matter what anybody says. I think that’s what Tennessee sees in me.”
Locker had worked closely with the Tennessee staff at the Senior Bowl and visited with the organization leading up to the draft, but he was still surprised when the phone rang.
“I tried not to go into today with any expectations,” Locker said. “I just tried to enjoy it and have fun when I did get that call. I’m just happy it came as early as it did. It made it a less stressful day, that’s for sure.”
A crowd of around 70 fans and well-wishers waited patiently in front of the high school after Locker’s named was announced, hoping to catch one last glimpse of their hometown hero as he arrived for the press conference.
When a vehicle carrying him finally pulled up to the gym about an hour later, he was wearing the Titans shirt his father bought and a camouflage hat. He waved and smiled before heading into the school. Locker turned down the opportunity to be at the draft in New York to stay at home and watch with friends and family.
“This is where I grew up and it’s where I call home,” Locker said. “I’m very happy to be a part of this community.”
Among those in attendance was Locker’s high school coach, Jamie Plenkovich. Like everyone else from the small community he was thrilled for the former Golden Eagles standout.
“Obviously, I’m just excited for him,” Plenkovich said. “He is so deserving. To be a top 10 pick is just unbelievable. He’s just a guy that you want on your team.”
There were several draft viewing parties at various restaurants and bars around town. Around 50 people were at the Silver Reef Casino for a draft party, with many wearing Huskies gear or Locker jerseys. A large cheer went up when he was picked.
One of those celebrating at the casino was Ferndale graduate Randall Finkbonner. He played basketball with Locker in high school and bought season tickets to Huskies football games during Locker’s first season. He had on a Huskies jersey autographed by Locker.
“There’s no other person I would want something like this to happen to,” Finkbonner said. “He’s a good guy. It would be selfish of me to say I wanted him to go to the Seahawks at No. 25, but I wanted him to go as high in the draft as possible. I wanted him to go No. 1.”
Locker planned to fly to Tennessee late Thursday night and then be introduced by the Titans today.
Until then, Locker had some celebrating to do. And Scott Locker had some cigars to smoke.
“I don’t know why I brought those two things,” Scott Locker said. “I just thought maybe we’d need them and it ended up working. I had a bag with the hat and the shirt in it and a bunch of cigars that I have to get back to and smoke.”