People will always want to know how someone so athletically gifted such as Jake Locker could simply walk away from pro football before the game decided that it was done with him.

After all, the NFL is all about fame, fortune and everyone's fantasy football team.

Well, the answer to that is to take a leisurely drive to rural Ferndale, Washington, a town not a city that can be found nearly 100 miles north of Seattle and resting in the shadows south of the Canadian border, and speak to the former University of Washington quarterback if he'll let you. 

After much persistence and persuasion, Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop did just that.

He caught up with Locker, whose decision in 2014 to walk away from the Tennessee Titans and the NFL after just four seasons and $12 million in earnings seemed to catch everyone by surprise.

After all, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound player was relatively healthy with still plenty of potential to settle into the league and be someone who could lead an NFL franchise to success.

No one in his position, as a first-round pick, the No. 8 player selected overall in 2011 and with a perfect blend of size and speed who hadn't reached his prime, had ever done something this before.

Left before the expiration date kicked in.

Most quarterbacks have to be pulled from the NFL battered and worn while kicking and screaming that they have something left to offer like some bleeding and pleading Y.A. Tittle figure.

Instead, Locker issued a concise statement that people were still left to decipher, packed up his family and he retreated from Tennessee to his Northwest hometown of population 11,415, not counting all those herds of cows.

He purchased his grandparents' house that sits on 25 acres not far from the coastal getaway of Birch Bay, Washington, remodeled it, opened up a gym, became an assistant football coach at his high school and gave rugby a try because it's big in this sporting intersection of America and Canada.

Most of all, Locker allowed himself to breathe. He permitted himself to move on and to be happy, to be a family man rather than a proud Russell Crowe gladiator who gets killed in the end.

Bishop, formerly of the Seattle Times and a gifted writer for SI, gained Locker's trust to tell his story after considerable effort. The journalist actually became part of the story, and that's what makes it all so believable and enjoyable. Take 20-30 minutes and read it here.

While Jake Locker is the most recognized football player to emerge from his very large and extended Ferndale family, he is not the only one to do great things with this sport and command newspaper headlines.

Hugh Locker, his grandfather and previous owner of the house he occupies, was a Seattle schoolboy standout at Ballard High, post World War II in 1949 and 1950, specifically a tough-minded fullback and tackler who was an All-City performer and made Locker a household name. You can read Hugh's story here written by me. 

His father Scott and uncles Mike, Pat and John were each football standouts at Ferndale High and nearby Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, which would be classified as the nearest city. You can read a family breakdown written by Ted Miller, formerly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and ESPN.com here. 

Pat Locker, in fact, became the first collegiate running back in the Northwest to surpass 4,000 yards rushing and Western retired his No. 24 and named him its football player of the century. You can find out about his football exploits from WWU's one-time sports information director Paul Madison here. 

Pat Locker, Jake's uncle, had his number retired at Western Washington.

Pat Locker, Jake's uncle, had his number retired at WWU.

Jake's cousins became Ferndale and college football players, and all of their sons likely will, too. Locker daughters became collegiate soccer, volleyball and basketball players. And their daughters will, too.

Where all this leads is to a lifestyle surrounded by family and without the outside complications wrought by the NFL, where someone such as Jake Locker, who's a man of faith, can find happiness on his own terms.

Why did Locker walk away from pro football?

To hear Jake explain it, and Bishop tell it, the decision was not all that complicated. 

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