Jake Locker: Calm Under Pressure
By Gail Wood
Jan. 27, 2013
There’d be no touchdown tosses for Jake Locker on this day.
Not with his arm in a sling. Not with an injured shoulder, popped out of place for the second time in the season after getting slammed to the turf by a blitzing linebacker.
But it’s at this moment, as the injured quarterback for the Tennessee Titans watches the game from the sidelines, that he feels his Christian testimony speaks the loudest. Or, at least when that faith is under the closest scrutiny by skeptics and seekers.
“The Bible says consider it pure joy whenever you face trials,” Locker says. “Your true character shines through in how you respond and who you turn to during tough times, during times of trials.”
Locker knows it’s easy to praise God and walk the talk when things are going well. Like when he’s just thrown a touchdown pass. Or when he was the eighth player picked in the 2011 draft — Tennessee’s first-round selection. But when things don’t go as hoped, Locker doesn’t want to be a fair-weather Christian, following Christ only when it’s convenient or prosperous. The message of the Cross is unchanged by circumstances.
Setbacks and disappointments are a part of life, whether you’re a starting quarterback in the NFL or a clerk at the corner grocery store.
“Now, as a new father, I want my daughter to know my love for Jesus never wavers, and that it always burns strong regardless of what we may be going through,” said Locker, whose first child was born in July.
Locker grew up in Ferndale, Wash., a small farming community of 11,000 near the Canadian border. In high school, he was a three-sport star, playing football, basketball and baseball. After his senior year at Ferndale High School, he was drafted in the 40th round by the Anaheim Angels in 2006.
But Locker’s high school career as a quarterback was the stuff of legend. As a senior, his team won the 3A state title, with Locker throwing 27 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He also ran for 24 touchdowns, earning him first-team Parade All-American honors.
As one of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Locker picked the University of Washington, turning down a pro baseball contract from the Angels. The Angels drafted him again three years later, this time picking him in the 10th round even though he hadn’t played baseball since high school.
Locker’s life has been one continuous headline. Yet the fame, the money and the adulation haven’t sidetracked him. Locker purposely stays focused on Jesus.
“No matter where you are in your walk with Jesus, you need to surround yourself with Christ-centered people,” Locker said. “Again, I’m fortunate to have those types of people around me. My wife, Lauren. My family. I also have people on my team in Tennessee who keep me accountable.”
Two of his best friends — Matt Hasselbeck and Rusty Smith — are also quarterbacks and Christians on the Titans team.
“The three of us hold each other accountable every day,” Locker said.
Locker, who became the Titans’ starting quarterback at the start of the 2012 season, attends Bible studies with his teammates. His favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13 — “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (NKJV).
“That’s a popular verse, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful or impactful,” Locker said. “No matter what you may be going through and no matter how bad things seem, this verse applies.”
Through the good times — touchdowns and wins — and the bad times — interceptions and losses — there’s been one constant in Locker’s life: prayer.
“Prayer is extremely important,” Locker said. “Just like in any relationship, you have to communicate for the relationship to grow, for it to become stronger. Prayer is your conversation with Jesus, and if you want your relationship with Him to grow stronger, you have to communicate with Him. You can’t build an intimate relationship — with Jesus or anyone — without communication.”
At the start of the 2012 season, Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak named Locker his starting quarterback, replacing Hasselbeck. But in the fourth game of the season, Locker was sacked and knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury. Munchak is optimistic about Locker’s future.
“They got flashes of seeing some great stuff by a young quarterback who’s going to be very good for a long time,” Munchak said. “So, I think that’s exciting. That position is such a key position as you watch the league turn.”
But Locker said his future isn’t bright because he’s an NFL quarterback. It’s because he’s a Christian.
GAIL WOOD attends Calvary Chapel in Lacey, Wash., and is author of Saved Twice.
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