Aside from the fact they both wore No. 10 as Washington Huskies quarterbacks, Jake Locker and Cyler Miles share little in common.
Locker loves the U-Dub and the U-Dub loves him back. Seen as a certain top-five NFL draft pick after his junior season, he made the risky decision to return for the last hurrah of a star-crossed college career. Although Locker never fulfilled his apparent destiny as a Heisman Trophy candidate, a guy so true to his school enjoys a permanent kinship with fans.
Miles’ career at Washington, on the other hand, screamed for a delete key. Accused but never charged for his part in the 2014 assault of pedestrians celebrating the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory against Denver, Miles couldn’t disassociate himself from the ugly incident.
Coach Chris Petersen suspended Miles from spring practice and the season opener at Hawaii, and the quarterback was challenged to grasp the new offense, much less lead it.
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Despite their many contrasts, Locker and Miles were in lockstep last week. Locker’s retirement “announcement” from the Tennessee Titans — it was issued by his agent — preceded the more mysterious revelation that Miles had chosen to sit out spring drills.
“Cyler is dealing with some things in his life that are more important than football,” Petersen said in a news release, “and he felt it was important to take some time away from the game.”
Translation: Cyler Miles has taken his last snap from center for the Huskes, and while it’s foolhardy to render assumptions based on brief news releases, don’t be surprised if Miles has taken his last snap from center for anybody.
Details remain sketchy, but I sense a clear parallel between Locker’s retirement from the NFL and Miles’ determination to put the game on the back burner: Neither was having fun.
For Locker, the former Ferndale High star whose combination of size and speed profiled him as a potential weapon at several positions, football had become a grind. He played tough, rarely avoiding contact, but his appetite for collisions came at cost.
Six weeks into his first college season, as a redshirt freshman, Locker was hit so hard at Oregon State he had to be transported off the field on a gurney. Prayers were said that night as Locker headed off to the hospital, and those prayers were answered: He returned to the stadium in a neck brace.
All was well, but the scare presaged various debilitating injuries to his hamstring and thumb and shoulder and hip and knee and foot. Appointed the Titans’ first-team quarterback in 2008, Locker missed 14 of his next 32 starts.
Locker’s body was breaking down, and it’s fair to say that losing took a toll on his heart.
Between Locker’s freshman year with the Huskies, spent as a redshirt, and his fourth year with the Titans, his teams went 45-81. Over those nine years, Locker’s two winning seasons were back to back: 7-6 at Washington and 9-7 at Tennessee, when he served as a backup.
In compensation for the injuries and the defeats, Locker was paid $12.6 million. There are worse predicaments for a 26-year-old husband and father of two small children to face than making a lifestyle change best explained by his retirement statement.
“I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living.”
Locker will be recalled as a bust in the NFL — definition of bust: a No. 8 overall draft choice quitting after four years — but he’s aspiring to live for a while, and to remember, a few decades from now, precisely why he walked from the hallway and into the kitchen.
As for Miles? He would have done himself a favor by dropping out of Washington a year ago. Once you’re implicated in an assault of innocent fans savoring the most enchanted evening in Seattle sports history, you’ve pretty much cast yourself as Public Enemy No. 1.
We don’t know what Miles did on the night of Feb. 2, 2014. All we know is he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and that the new Huskies coach was outraged by police reports citing his quarterback for unnecessary roughness.
Give the kid this much: He tried to make an untenable situation work. Realizing he’d never be embraced by the UW community, Miles served his suspension with the ambition of suiting up for the rest of the season.
He accomplished that mission, but the thrill was gone. It was gone for him, and for the rest of us, too.
Absent a veteran quarterback, the Huskies’ wish list for 2015 begins with a dream that is the essence of unreasonable:
A healthy version of Jake Locker, circa 2007, when he seemed to have all the tools required to take on the brutal world awaiting him.