It's hard to believe that Jake Locker's NFL career is already three years in the rearview mirror. It seems not that long ago that NFL draft analysts were hailing the Washington Huskies quarterback as a potential NFL franchise savior.
After a decorated career in the Pac-10, Locker entered the 2011 draft, and the Titans selected him No. 8 overall. It was a star-studded draft. Others who went in the top 10: Cam Newton, Von Miller, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, and Julio Jones.
Locker's NFL career only lasted four years, however, and he retired in March 2015. It wasn't immediately clear why he chose to walk away from the game, except that Locker said he didn't have a "burning desire" to keep playing. Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop had long sought to capture the full story from Locker's perspective, and he finally has. Read Bishop's fascinating feature here.
Locker began struggling off the field in college, when he turned to alcohol as an escape from pressures to live an idyllic life. Alcohol was "my way to not have to be that guy for six hours," Locker told Bishop.
When the Titans acquired Locker, he surprised then-starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Locker shunned the spotlight and dreamed of starting a family and farming.
"He wasn't motivated by the things that typically motivate people," Hasselbeck said.
Locker had a gut-check moment and began to reevaluate his life, dedicating it to Jesus after hearing rapper Lecrae speak at a retreat to which Hasselbeck had invited him.
Lecrae added a hilarious quote to the article: "I hope his fans aren't mad at me."
Locker earned the starting QB spot before the 2014 season, but he lost it by October. Hasselbeck blamed the Titans, saying Locker got "a raw deal. Just a terrible situation. So many coaches [three coordinators in four years]. You never knew who was in charge. The coach? The general manager? The owner? That organization was really bizarre, and so far behind in terms of nutrition and everything else."
Locker loved football, but he didn't love the NFL and all that comes with it, Hasselbeck said.
"Fame and fortune equal success for most people," Locker said. "But those aren't things that last."
Locker made his agent promise not to tell him about new playing opportunities, so when 10 teams expressed interest in signing Locker after he retired, his agent stayed silent. Though Locker said seeing Marcus Mariota's success with the Titans "looks fun," he has no regrets.
"I never had any doubt," Locker said. "Never once have I regretted what I did. Naw. No way."
Locker started 30 games in his four-year career. He totaled 4,967 yards and 27 touchdowns with 22 interceptions. Read the full SI feature here.