As a former USC football coach, UW head coach Steve Sarkisian knows a little something about hyping players and preparing them for national exposure. And when it comes to quarterback Jake Locker, Sarkisian is starting to sound a little bit like a political campaign manager. First, the Carson Palmer comparisons, and now this from Tim Booth of the Associated Press.
“He’s not just the guy from Ferndale anymore,” Sarkisian said. “This was an invaluable experience for him, to push him out there, get him comfortable out there doing the things that he’s done. He’s done fantastic with it. I think he’s really found some of his own personality and he’s allowed it to come out and get people to really know him as a person.”
But that doesn’t mean all of the Palin-esque, cheery kid-next-door charm is staying repressed.
Having a public persona is a continuing evolution for Locker, even though he’s become more comfortable with who he is and what he’s about. He loves country music and his pickup truck, jeans and camouflage are his preferred attire. His dog goes almost everywhere with his master, especially happy when they go to Eastern Washington for duck hunting.
Easy, Oregon fans. No pun intended.
In this case, it’s all about playing both sides of the fence. Play up the local angle to show a “by the bootstraps” work ethic and friendly personality. But focus on the national aspirations to force the argument that Locker isn’t just a flash in the pan way out in the nation’s isolated Northwest corner. Indeed, Sarkisian is smart to address the biggest perceived weakness in Jake Locker’s Heisman candidacy: his lack of national notoriety due mostly to Washington’s lack of success and geographical isolation. When the competition includes a guy like Terrelle Pryor — a national name for years at an elite, storied college football institution — the “good guy from a small town” angle won’t be enough.
Sarkisian isn’t doing this just for Locker, though. The worst case for Sarkisian is for Locker to have a Heisman season and not get the attention he deserved because he flew under the radar. That would reflect poorly on the entire program and undercut Sarkisian’s ability to land big-time recruits who realistically dream of chasing future Heismans. Here, the hype is a win/win for all parties involved, especially if Locker can get it done on Saturdays.
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