Amazing to see some people are criticizing University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker for deciding to return for his senior season of college instead of chucking his textbooks away and accepting NFL riches.

Seems Locker is pretty sure he needs another year of seasoning and that becoming the best player he can possibly be is a tad more important than cashing paychecks in the fall of 2010.

But no, numerous pundits say Locker should have done the money grab — as in the old hit song by the Steve Miller Band: Take the Money and Run.

Locker probably would’ve been the first quarterback chosen in the 2010 NFL Draft and likely among the Top 5 players selected. Because there’s a chance that an NFL rookie salary scale could be instituted, people are criticizing him for passing up money now that may not be there in a year from now.

But if he takes the money this spring and turns out to be a bust — is that you Ryan Leaf? Hey Heath Shuler, raise your hand too — then Locker gets ridiculed for not being worthy of such a high selection and stealing a boatland of cash.

Not fair at all, particularly when the No. 1 thing you hear about today’s athletes is that they are greedy and how the cash is more important to them than winning or being the best possible player they can be.

Locker obviously assessed his situation closely and decided it was the best move to return to Washington and play another season in Steve Sarkisian’s pro-style offense. Sure he could possibly discover a serious injury like Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford did in September but now that Locker didn’t put his name in the draft, guess who’s projected to be the first quarterback selected?

Yeah, Bradford. Doesn’t sound like the injury diminished his stock all that much.

I see plenty of top-flight NFL quarterbacks who stayed in college for four seasons, including the two leading candidates for NFL MVP — Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. A couple other good ones — Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers and Eli Manning of the New York Giants — didn’t leave after their junior seasons either.

Of course, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots wasn’t even highly coveted after his senior season at Michigan and he seemed to turn out all right.

Locker has NFL size (6-foot-3, 226 pounds) and is a great athlete but there are definitely things he can improve on. His accuracy has improved each year and his touchdown-to-interception ratio (21 to 11 this season) stands room for improvement.

Most importantly, he’s decided he’s not ready for the NFL yet. And in this era of me-first, grab-the-money-and-run players, that’s a refreshing development.


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