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Originally published February 25, 2011 at 7:32 PM | Page modified February 26, 2011 at 5:50 PM

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Locker relishes chance to show his skills at NFL combine

On Sunday, we will see Jake Locker run, we will see Jake throw and then we'll wait to see which team will be convinced to take Jake.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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INDIANAPOLIS — The local icon is now a national question mark.

Quarterback Jake Locker enters another stage of scrutiny this weekend, taking part in the NFL talent show the league calls its annual scouting combine.

On Sunday, we will see Jake run, we will see Jake throw and then we'll wait to see which team will be convinced to take Jake.

"It's a great opportunity to come showcase what you can do, but you also open yourself up to criticism," Locker said. "That's part of this process. It's something you have to get comfortable with: playing under a microscope."

Locker should be used to that. All the nits have been picked in the year since he returned to Washington for his senior season. He's prone to overthrowing his receivers. His passing from the pocket needs improvement. He's still a bit of a project. Those critiques have been recited so often they've become a ready-made recipe to explain why the player once projected as the top pick in this draft is not considered a lock to be chosen in the first round. Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are now considered the top quarterbacks in the draft.

So how has Locker handled all this? This is a player who tried to do everything right in college. He chose his home-state school, stuck it out through an 0-12 season and stayed for his final year even when he could have cashed out and gone to the NFL after his junior season. He just might be the most talented quarterback to come out of a school known for its NFL passers, yet for months now, his draft evaluations have focused on what's wrong.

Has any of this criticism gotten to him?

"No," Locker said. "I think that it's stuff that's fixable, and I'm working on it, just trying to get better every day."

There's no hurt feelings here, no scar tissue from being picked apart. He arrived in Indianapolis not just ready to show teams what he offers, but excited about it.

"It's something I'm trying to enjoy and have fun with," he said. "Because there's a lot of people that I think would like to be in this position, so I don't want to dread it or make it seem like it's something I have to do because it's something I get to do.

"It's a privilege."

Nothing Locker does this week will rewrite his scouting report. He can't override a four-year college career in a single afternoon.

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What he can do is show those skills that make him unique, that speed and athleticism that can't be coached and can't be faked.

"He's got great speed," Washington coach Mike Shanahan said of Locker. "He can do some things outside the pocket that most quarterbacks can't do."

The source of those words is important. Shanahan knows a thing or two about quarterbacks who can make plays on the move. He won two Super Bowls in Denver with John Elway at quarterback, and he also traded to bring Jake Plummer to the Broncos.

Now in Washington, Shanahan has a question at quarterback, the No. 10 overall pick and some plans to take a closer look at Locker.

"I've only watched a couple games," he said. "I'm looking forward to watching a little bit more."

Ultimately, it takes just one team to be sold on a player's potential, and after a couple months of tepid reviews on Locker's draft stock, the quarterback remains unambiguously positive about the opportunity in front of him.

"I believe it's a really good year to be a quarterback," he said. "You look at the draft, I think there's a good number of teams that will be looking at quarterbacks to draft or pick up in some way. So I think it's a good year to be able to come out and showcase what you can do and what you can bring to an organization."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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