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Originally published April 22, 2010 at 9:25 PM | Page modified April 23, 2010 at 9:19 PM

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Jake Locker's decision to play senior year is looking good

The selection of Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft makes Huskies QB Jake Locker's decision to spurn the pros look like the right choice.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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On the day he could have become an instant millionaire, Jake Locker instead marched through the paces of another spring practice for the Washington Huskies.

Afterward, he insisted again he had no regrets over his decision to return for his senior football season, putting NFL riches on hold for another 12 months.

If anything, in fact, Locker felt a little more validation after seeing Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford taken by the St. Louis Rams with the first pick despite missing most of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury.

Bradford made a decision similar to Locker's when he spurned the NFL after winning the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and decided to return for his senior season.

Last winter, when Locker was mulling over his decision, many analysts cited Bradford's injury as an example of the risk Locker would be taking in returning.

"I think it just proves that like I said, you are able to come back and play and it's not going to affect your stock in the NFL," Locker said after practice Thursday.

"It's a good lesson for everybody that you can come back and play your senior year and still fulfill your NFL dreams and aspirations at the level you could have the year before. It's a good message for everybody in college football."

UW coach Steve Sarkisian agreed.

"It validates the decision he made, and the reasoning for what he did," Sarkisian said. "To have Sam Bradford be the first pick in the draft, after having a seasonlong injury, and still be the first pick in the draft just discounts the theory, 'What happens if you get hurt your senior year, what's going to happen?' That theory is thrown out the window. The guy was the first pick of the draft."

Locker said he planned to go home and watch the rest of the draft, not out of any sense of "what might have been" but because it's what he's always done, and to keep tabs on friends such as former UW teammate Donald Butler and Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Locker and Clausen became friends after working together at summer camps the last few years.

"I won't be thinking that I wish I could have been there," Locker said. "No way."

If Mel Kiper Jr., knows what he's talking about, there's little for Locker to worry about, anyway. The well-coiffed ESPN analyst said recently that it's "etched in stone" that Locker will be the first pick of the 2011 draft.

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Locker said he'd heard it, but didn't think much of it.

"It's a whole 'nother year to play and a whole draft process to go through, so what's said now could change drastically," he said. "People said when Sam decided to come back for his senior year last year that there's no way he would be taken in the same spot he was, and look at him now. So you never know."

Sarkisian said preparing Locker for the NFL isn't an emphasis of the season, but also won't be ignored.

"I think it's important," he said. "I feel like we owe it not just to the quarterback, but every kid on our football team to get them prepared at least for the opportunity to play in the National Football League. With that being said, we never bypass the fact our season is the most important thing, and our success is the most important thing because with our success comes the successes for them later on in the National Football League."

Notes

• Freshman RB Jesse Callier, who has been impressive throughout spring, wore a brace on his left knee after suffering a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in practice Tuesday. Sarkisian said the injury is not serious, though it's possible Callier could be held out for the rest of spring practice, which concludes with the Friday Night Lights game April 30.

• Sarkisian said Chris Izbicki has moved slightly ahead of Kavario Middleton at tight end. "I think Chris is playing really well. But I think they're both doing nice things."

• UW will hold a scrimmage Saturday that will last 80-90 plays. It will begin at 11 a.m. (a change from previous listings) and is open to the public.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

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