first_img Comments Published on September 8, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: | @mark_cooperjr Jamie Plenkovich saw what he thought was the weak link of the Ferndale High School defense. It was a thin, wiry, 14-year old freshman starting cornerback, whose helmet looked too big for his head. The kid’s name was Jake Locker. Plenkovich, then the varsity coach at Sehome, a rival high school, had hopes of picking on Locker by lining his all-league receiver up against the young cornerback. ‘I just thought he was not going to be able to be physical and tackle,’ Plenkovich said, ‘and I wanted our guy, who was a good receiver, to go one-on-one with him and challenge him in the first quarter.’ Bad idea.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text The first time Sehome threw Locker’s way, he nearly picked off the pass. The next time, Locker made a sure tackle on the spot. After two or three more throws to Locker’s side of the field, Plenkovich avoided throwing his direction the rest of the game. After the season, Locker was voted an all-league cornerback. As a sophomore, he moved to the other side of the ball and became Ferndale’s starting varsity quarterback. Plenkovich, who had once coached against Locker, took over as the varsity head coach at Ferndale a year later, as Locker progressed into an all-state quarterback as a junior and senior. ‘He just scared the living daylights out of me (as an opponent),’ Plenkovich said. ‘So I knew when I came to Ferndale, we had to make sure we really exploited his athleticism and his gifts as a weapon on offense.’ And Plenkovich did just that. Locker was the ‘weapon’ Ferndale used to capture a Washington State Championship title in his senior year before moving on to play collegiately at Washington. In his first career start for the Huskies in 2007, Locker torched the Syracuse defense by throwing for 142 yards and rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-12 rout at the Carrier Dome. Now, as a senior Heisman Trophy candidate, Locker will see the Orange for the second time on Saturday in Seattle (Fox Sports Northwest, 7 p.m.). This time, the attention is all on Locker. He’s projected as a Top 10 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and many believe he has the prototypical body of an NFL quarterback. But what many don’t know is that he hasn’t forgotten his small-town roots and values. He still abides by the values with which he was raised. He made that evident in his decision to come back to Washington for his senior season, rather than entering the 2010 NFL Draft. ‘I saw down and talked to (my parents) about it,’ Locker said in a teleconference on Aug. 30. ‘Got a chance to talk to my dad. He said, ‘Jake, you know, make a decision that when you’re my age, you’ll look back on and you won’t regret.’ ‘It was easy for me to come back.’ Locker was born into a family full of athletes. His father, Scott, and three uncles were all running backs for Ferndale. His uncle Pat went on to rush for 4,049 yards at Western Washington. His grandfather was also a football player, and mother Anita won a state volleyball championship at Ferndale. But Jake was different. He was even better. A football and baseball player, Locker was the buzz of Ferndale right from that game against Sehome. People knew the Locker family and their athletic accomplishments, but they also knew the youngest Locker was special. Locker’s greatest leaps and bounds as a football player came once he was in high school. He would go to Ferndale High before school started to do a sprinter’s workout with one of the track coaches and then go to baseball practice after school. He would work out in his garage each day, determined to get bigger and stronger. The thin and wiry kid became a long and strong man. ‘We used to make fun of him because we thought he ate dumbbells for breakfast,’ said Rocki Sandusky, one of Locker’s childhood friends and his current roommate in Seattle. ‘The kid just blew up when he got to high school. He got huge. His work ethic definitely changed how he looks.’ His work ethic paid off for the rest of the team, too, as it now had one of the best quarterbacks in the state at its disposal. Ferndale lost in the state final his junior season, but made it back and blew out Prosser, 47-12, in his senior season — defeating another Heisman candidate, Boise State’s Kellen Moore. The effect Locker has had on the town of Ferndale is perhaps even more impressive. The small town of less than 9,000 people has latched on to Locker. He is their hero. Locker’s parents have yet to miss a game he’s played for the Huskies, no matter how far away they have to travel. Many others Ferndale residents make the 90-minute trek to Seattle. He’s mesmerized an entire community. Jake Locker, the person, is a key reason why Ferndale is so attached to him. Both Plenkovich and UW head coach Steve Sarkisian say he’s a better human being than he is a football player. There’s much more to Locker than his football accolades. For those close to Locker, he’s not only the ultimate athlete, but the ultimate person as well. For example, he once shaved his head as a fundraiser for a Ferndale athlete who was battling cancer. ‘People sometimes are looking for heroes, and they really like their heroes to be tall and handsome and nice and polite, and to not get in trouble,’ said Ferndale mayor Gary Jensen, who also employs Jake’s mother as the business manager of his plumbing company. ‘Those are sometimes just fantasies of the book. Here, you got Jake, and you’re going, ‘Man, he’s the real deal.” All of that isn’t to say that Locker’s play on the field hasn’t amazed the town of Ferndale as well. In a game against Sehome during Locker’s senior year, Sehome’s quarterback attempted to throw the ball away out of bounds. But out of nowhere came Locker, leaping up to pick off the pass and take it back for six. It’s not all athletic ability, either. Locker has that high football IQ. He reads plays and picks up schemes with ease. He might as well have been in the offensive huddle in a game against Vancouver Collegiate in his senior year. ‘He was like, ‘Listen, they’re going to run a sweep around the end,” said Sandusky, who played safety alongside Locker in the Ferndale secondary. ‘He came around and made the tackle. Next play, he goes, ‘Rocki, they’re going to throw a hitch to this guy here. I’m going to pick it and take it back for six.” He took it back for six. Though it has been more than four years since that state title game, Plenkovich still keeps in touch with Locker. The old coach talks to his former star every few weeks, whether it is about Ferndale’s season or what’s going on in Locker’s life. Plenkovich knows Washington’s struggles over the past couple of seasons bother Locker immensely. The quarterback once apologized to his coach after a loss. And Plenkovich knows those humble, small-town values will keep Locker grounded, even when he’s getting paid to scare the living daylights out of NFL coaches. ‘He’ll remain true to his values, and that’s going to help him have success as well,’ Plenkovich said. ‘He does not get star-struck or caught up in the accolades he receives. ‘He’s a better guy off the field than on the field, and he’s really special on the field.’ mcooperj@syr.educenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

first_img“My thing is to get into the high schools now, because why didn’t somebody teach me this stuff when I was in high school?” he said, adding that learning at a younger age the necessary tools to handle an issue can also help people in adulthood. “Was it that bad that you couldn’t teach somebody? That we had to sweep it under the rug that you could get depressed or that you could have obsessive thoughts? Why was I not taught that in high school? For people that have taken their lives, children, high schoolers, maybe by teaching them, maybe they didn’t have to.”If we don’t start helping them learn about these disorders so that when they do happen to them they can recognize them right away, they can go to the doctor. They don’t have to be ashamed of it and that they can get help and start to lead a better life.”Now looking back on the past two years, Hirsch doesn’t have any regrets about opening up about his struggles; actually, he has one: that he should have done it 20 years ago. Less than two years ago, Corey Hirsch stepped out of the darkness.In an exposing article for The Players’ Tribune, the former NHL netminder revealed a side of himself that he had kept hidden from the outside world — his struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression and how in 1994 he got into his car and came very close to driving it off a cliff. “I always wanted to get my story out there and it just seemed like the time was right,” Hirsch exclusively told Sporting News in a wide-ranging telephone interview. “I always wanted to help people, too. I know what it was like when I was sick [and] to get out on the other side. When you’re sick you’re not doing well, you look for hope and you look for signs of hope and I was so discouraged . . . you feel like you’re doomed to a life like that.”So my thing was, I’m going to get it out there and if it helps one person realize that you can get better, that was my goal.”The decision to come forward was not one that Hirsch took lightly.”The big thing was you’re always terrified to come out with a mental health issue because you think you’d never work again,” Hirsch, who’s now a radio analyst for the Vancouver Canucks, noted. “To me, that’s garbage because some of the most brilliant minds in the world have had mental health issues and go on to do amazing things.”The fear is not Hirsch’s alone.This past offseason, New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner opened up to The Athletic about being diagnosed late last season as being bipolar and having both attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with post-traumatic stress disorder and trauma. He wrote in his essay, “The one thing that was still making me nervous was that bipolar stigma. I didn’t understand why I was so ashamed to say anything. Would I lose my job?””That’s why I didn’t say anything,” Hirsch said when Lehner was brought up, quickly adding that Lehner is having an outstanding season on Long Island. “The myth [that someone with a mental health issue can’t perform] is garbage because the numbers are 20 percent [of adults experience a mental health illness].”You’re not immune to it. Nobody is. Every Stanley Cup team that wins a Cup, guess what, there’s four or five guys on that team that have a mental health issue and they seem to not have a problem winning a Stanley Cup. . . .  You can’t tell me that just because you have a mental health issue . . . that you can’t be a champion.”When I was sick 23 years ago and could barely get out of bed to get to practice….I never imagined this day possible. Thank you so much AlexEdler @NHL @Canucks @EdmontonOilers @Sportsnet650 @Sportsnet @GenePrincipe @sportsnetmurph @cmcdavid97 and so many more. I love you guys.— Corey Hirsch (@CoreyHirsch) January 18, 2019Hirsch played 108 games over seven seasons primarily as a backup with four NHL teams, recording a 34-45-14 record, a 3.13 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage. He finished his career in Europe and retired following the 2004-05 season. While other players have spoken out about the NHL’s mental health practices, Hirsch said that he does not blame the league or the NHL Players’ Association for his issues or lack of treatment during his playing days, adding that his teams had sports psychologists. He does note, however, that they need to do more. “It’s inevitable, they have to. Mental health is a huge movement and if you don’t get on board you’ll get left behind,” he said. “We still need more. How we’re going to get more is by more players coming forward saying, ‘Hey, you know what? I’m struggling a little bit, I need some help.’When pressed about what teams can do, he said they should have a psychologist, not just a sports psychologist, travel with them regularly. There is a line that would need to be carefully negotiated, however. Could teams begin conducting mental health assessments at the start of a season? Not so fast, says Hirsch, as concerns about stigmatization and of teams using that knowledge against their players creeps back in.”That’s a private issue and most guys want to keep it private,” Hirsch said. “They do have that, where guys try to get into their psyche, but what are you using it for? Are you using it as a negative, to get in so you can get rid of somebody? That’s where that stuff gets a slippery slope. Are you using it to help a player or are you using it to see and say, ‘Hmm, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, we’re not going to keep him.’”I’m telling you, that stuff would happen. What are you using it for as a team?”“24 years ago, I was playing in the NHL and driving around in a sports car. To the outside world, I had it all. But inside, I just wanted my dark thoughts to stop forever.”@CoreyHirsch has been there. He has a message for anyone who feels a similar way. #WorldMentalHealthDay— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) October 10, 2018Hirsch, 46, can’t help but wonder how his life would have played out had he gotten help earlier and if that help were more readily available then.”My life would be completely different, completely different,” he told Sporting News. “Probably would have had a longer playing career, probably wouldn’t have had to suffer those days that I suffered. I spent three years hiding. . . . I wouldn’t change my life. I’m happy where I’m at but I didn’t have to suffer like I did and that’s what bothers me the most out of everything.”Since coming forward, Hirsch has become an advocate for mental health. His Players’ Tribune article and a follow-up post in January 2018 have garnered widespread attention and helped bring mental health awareness to the forefront.Last year, he created a website to blog about ways to address mental health issues. He also serves as a motivational speaker, works with The Center for Addiction and Mental Health and its GameChangers program, tweets in the hope that he can help just one person who is struggling with their mental health, and is passionate about bringing mental health awareness and training to teenagers.GameChangers mental health information posters. These will go in every school I speak at across the country. No longer will our children not have the information they need to care for themselves through mental health. Thank you @hudsonsbay— Corey Hirsch (@CoreyHirsch) January 29, 2019His goal is to provide training for all students, not just student-athletes, and ensure that the next generation is comfortable seeking out help when needed. As he expressed, how people deal with their anxiety and depression makes a difference.last_img read more