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Originally published Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Jake Locker might sign with Angels, but focus remains on football

Washington quarterback says the move is a fallback if his football career doesn't work out.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker said that he is open to signing a contract with the Los Angeles Angels, who drafted him Wednesday in the 10th round in the June amateur draft.

"Definitely, if we can come to an agreement on some kind of contract terms," he said. "That's something I'm looking into now."

But Locker, who was picked as a center fielder, stressed that he has no plans to abandon his football career with the Huskies.

"I'm staying put to play football at Washington," Locker said in a hastily arranged conference call after the Angels drafted him for the second time. "I haven't lost focus on that. That's still my goal, turning this program around and being a part of the team that did it.

"All my attention is on football, and this doesn't change any of that. They [the Angels] understand that if I have a chance to play football, I'm going to."

Locker said football "has always been my passion, what I've always loved doing."

But when asked to describe his relationship with baseball, he said, "I love baseball, too. I love playing the sport. It's a great game. It's a game that takes a lot of mental toughness, and the ability to overcome failure every day. There's something that's challenging about that, and enticing about that, as well. But at the end of the day, I have a passion for football."

He said the security of signing a baseball contract is enticing.

"I don't know how it would not be enticing to anyone," he said.

The Angels took Locker in the 40th round out of Ferndale High School in 2006.

A possible baseball contract, Locker said, would be merely a fallback if his football career didn't work out. The Angels would hold his rights for six years if he signs by the Aug. 17 deadline for 2009 draftees to reach contract agreement.

"If football doesn't work out the way I hope it will, I'd have the opportunity to still play for a living," he said.

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Locker said he hopes to begin talking contract with the Angels soon. He will not be able to retain an agent, however, and keep his football eligibility.

"My amateur status would be lost at that point," he said. "I'll try to do as much as I can through my family."

If he did sign with the Angels, Locker would have to forfeit the final two years of his football scholarship, but the Angels would likely pay for his schooling as part of the deal. If that happens, Locker would in effect be a walk-on, and the Huskies would have one more scholarship to offer.

"Obviously, being drafted that high by a big-league baseball team shows the athletic ability that Jake Locker has," Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian said in a quote provided by the UW public relations staff. "Jake has reassured us that he's committed to playing football for the Huskies, and I know that he's anxious for the upcoming season."

Baseball scouts have long believed that Locker has the potential to be a star if he concentrated on baseball. But his only exposure to the sport since high school — other than through the UW softball team, which includes his girlfriend, Lauren Greer — came last summer, when Locker played 10 games in the outfield for the Bellingham Bells in the West Coast League. He hit .273 (9-for-33) with one home run. The league's coaches named him the WCL's top prospect.

Three other Huskies were chosen Wednesday on the second day of the draft — outfielder Kyle Conley, in the seventh round by St. Louis; right-handed pitcher Brian Pearl, in the ninth round by Cincinnati; and right-handed pitcher Jason Erickson in the 24th round by Pittsburgh.

Conley, out of Richland High School, hit .303 with 19 homers and 55 runs batted in for the Huskies. Pearl, who attended Cascade High School, was 1-5 with a 3.05 earned-run-average in 23 games (two starts). He had eight saves and struck out 40 in 38-1/3 innings, with 17 walks. Erickson, from White River High School, was 5-4 in 14 games (11 starts), with a 4.34 ERA, striking out 55 in 74-2/3 innings with 18 walks.

The highest pick from the state Wednesday was outfielder Darrell Ceciliani from Columbia Basin Community College, taken in the fourth round by the Mets.

Washington State University left-handed pitcher Matt Way went in the fifth round to the Phillies. Another Cougar pitcher, right-hander Jeremy Johnson from Centralia High School, was taken in the 13th round by Cleveland. WSU catcher Alex Burg, from Mount Rainier High School, was picked in the 24th round by the Giants.

Gonzaga also had three players chosen — catcher Tyson Van Winkle (10th round, Diamondbacks), right-handed pitcher Steven Ames (17th round, Dodgers) and right-handed pitcher Matt Fields (22nd round, Blue Jays).

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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