The smile never faded.
A beaming Jake Locker stood in front of the cameras at Baptist Sports Park on Friday, wearing a Tennessee Titans cap and holding a jersey with his name on the back of it, flanked by Titans head coach Mike Munchak and general manager Mike Reinfeldt.
The former University of Washington quarterback, who had been drafted eighth overall in the first round the night before by the Titans, remained positive as he addressed a variety of topics. He shared his thoughts on how soon he expects to play and whether he has an accuracy issue. He also touched on his brief exploration into professional baseball — he was drafted in the 10th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009 — his love of country music and hunting and his parents’ influence on his leadership skills.
After the 20-minute press conference concluded, he met with more members of the Titans organization before leaving the facility around 5 p.m. He was in town for fewer than 18 hours after he left his hometown of Ferndale, Wash., after 1 a.m. early Friday.
“It is has been kind of a whirlwind but it has been the best whirlwind of my life,” Locker said. “It is a dream come true and I’m just happy to be a part of an organization like this.”
The Titans hope Locker is their answer for quarterback after their five-year marriage with Vince Young ended after last season. Aging Kerry Collins and young and inconsistent Rusty Smith are currently on the Titans’ roster at quarterback, opening the door for Locker to compete for a starting position this fall.
“We feel he is the kind of quarterback that has the ability to possibly be ready to play right away,” Munchak said. “I think you’ll know. I think you’ll watch the game film [and say] ‘Man this guy is ready.’ I don’t think it is going to be a real hard decision.”
The largest knock against Locker, who is listed at 6-foot-3, 234 pounds, is that he struggles with hitting his targets. His numbers steadily improved from his freshman year in 2007 when he threw 15 interceptions and 11 touchdowns, with a completion percentage of 47.2 percent.
He finished his career completing 53.9 percent of his passes for 7,639 yards, 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. But critics question his accuracy, especially within the pocket.
“They look at numbers and that is it,” Locker, 22, said. “I think that is what I tried to let all the coaches know, that sometimes that isn’t the most telling. The numbers aren’t most telling. I believe I am an accurate passer. ... Given the opportunity, I hope to be able to prove that to you guys. There are a lot of reasons [for the inaccuracy talk]. They [the statistics] weren’t obviously where I would have liked them to be. This last year we were able to win football games and that is what mattered to me. And that is what I cared about.”
That sort of talk is what gave the Titans something to smile about during their meetings with Locker in the offseason.
“We do visits of up to 30 players [prior to the draft],” Reinfeldt said. “Jake came and visited everybody. You could kind of close your eyes and you could imagine Jake Locker as a Titan.”