Locker, Leonard Learning the Barton Way

SEATTLE - Luther Leonard knew he loafed. He caught himself not going full-speed through the end of a particular footwork drill, and immediately hit the field turf at the Dempsey Indoor Arena. A quick pushup soon followed. Taylor Barton had yet to utter the words, but Leonard knew they were coming. He had heard them before - too many times for his taste.

Barton saw Leonard going through the routine. "Luther knows my rule," Barton said. No half-assing it at this football camp. If so, you waste Barton's time, and more importantly - your own time. It was the last time Leonard had to remind himself.

When you are working side-by-side with Jake Locker, no reminders are necessary.

Barton has been hosting camps with his father at the University of washington since Leonard's freshman year. Luther remembers a very specific workout, in which Barton characterized a certain throw Leonard had made with some choice words - and it got to Leonard.

"He's been tough on me," Leonard told Dawgman.com Saturday night after his workout with Barton. "Some would let me get away with stuff, but he doesn't.

Leonard has endured his share of Barton's 'tough love', and it paid off this past fall when the University of Washington offered Leonard a scholarship. Barton believes the talent in the area is 'head and shoulders better' than it's ever been. "Just look at the continued improvement," he told Dawgman.com. "See the amount of players going to that next level. It's a huge credit to the high school staffs out there that work so hard. And it's the kids getting more and more competitive when they see other kids making it out there."

This was workout No. 5 of 11 for Barton's 2008 Washington indoor winter skill training session. Roughly 120-130 players from elementary school all the way to college come by every Saturday and Sunday to work on their fundamentals. And then there's the 20-30 linemen that work out at the same time under the tutelage of former Oregon State lineman Josh Linehan.

Saturday's workout was just a little different from the norm. It had a little marquee value attached to it - although the participant in question would just assume go about his business and not be hassled by the trappings that come with his job description. Jake Locker had it a little easier than the rest of the players working out. For one, his locker was just a 60-second jog away, so he could go in, take a shower, freshen up, and then get on with the rest of his day. Secondly, he was the oldest camp participant, so presumably he had a fairly decent grasp of the material.

That doesn't interest Taylor Barton much. The former Washington quarterback is a lot more intrigued with just how far he can push Locker. And after watching Locker work out it became very clear he was interested in finding out too.

"I'm not happy with my accuracy and I have to get better at that," Locker told Dawgman.com. "I just see this as another opportunity for me to get better." Locker is already working out five days a week with the rest of his UW teammates. They lift on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, run on Tuesday sand Thursdays and throw on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually in the form of 7-7 practices.

On top of that, he's one of five Huskies currently helping out local trainer Kevin Chiles with his Sports Development Camps on Sundays. Geared toward 5th-8th graders, Locker is there with Paul Homer, Tony Chidiac, Matt Sedillo, Cody Habben and Ryan Tolar helping young kids learn fundamental football techniques. "It's been a good experience and fun," Locker said of the Chiles camps. "We haven't had the big numbers that we'd like to have, and hopefully that will change."

While the younger players get taught by Locker on Sundays, Locker plans on coming to as many Saturday Barton camps so that he can continue to improve on his own weaknesses. "A lot of the stuff they do here, I never did in high school," he said. "So I apply what I didn't know to the passing game in the offense."

Locker mentioned that a lot of the focus on is based on footwork, and recognizing coverages and throwing when tired. And as soon as he walks inside Dempsey, he knows that Barton is going to be on him. "It's neat to have him here," Barton said of Locker's presence. "The younger kids, they see a guy right there that's making it to where they want to be. So they see that you have to be constantly working, no matter what level you are at.

"The casual individual never gets to be in a situation like this with someone like that. It's usually at such a higher level. You have kids here working out that saw him play on TV against Ohio State, and now they see him work out here for three hours. It's pretty unique."

And there it was - Locker doing footwork drills alongside a group of younger players that included Leonard, Skyline QB Jake Heaps and Redmond QB David Gilbertson - son of former UW Head Coach Keith Gilbertson. This was no autograph session. This was not Picture Day. This was a group of quarterbacks and receivers intent on improving.

"He could go anywhere he wanted to," Barton said of Locker. "It's a testament that he knows what he's going to get with us. Guys get to a certain level where they think they are untouchable. No one wants to tell them when they are off. Jake respects the fact that we aren't just going to yell at him, just so we can say we yelled at Jake Locker. We will actually coach him where he needs it in order to get better. He knows it's worth his time."

And the level of work immediately goes up when Locker is around. QB's finish their drills. Receivers' hands get just a little stickier, routes are run just a little more crisply than before. Heaps acknowledged that when he works out with Locker, he's working out with a guy that is doing what he wants to be doing in a few years. He's the starting quarterback at the University of Washington, and that's where everyone here wants to be at.

"The level of intensity is brought up," Heaps said. "It pushes me and I know it helps him because he doesn't want to get outworked by us. I might get him for a rep, but then he gets the next five. As soon as he gets a handle on what being done here, he'll kill all of us. He just wants to be the best."

"Usually I don't go as hard, but once he stepped onto the field, it's hard not to want to do it like Jake does it," added Leonard. "Usually I might get away with doing things half-speed, but since he was there I had to step it up a notch."

That is something Leonard has been doing of late - stepping it up. Once the initial excitement of committing to a Pac-10 school wore off, Luther knew he needed to really focus himself on taking that next step. "Luther has taken on the challenge," Barton said. "He's always had the talent to play at the highest level. You'd see it for a couple of reps in a row, but something would stop his way. It's consistency that separates the 4 and 5-star player from the rest.

"He's grown up and matured. He saw guys maybe rated ahead of him, and he's a prideful guy. I think it started to eat at him a little bit. But then the lightbulb switched on. He understands now. It's not what you do in front of your friends. It's what you do every time out."

For Leonard, it was a matter of overcoming his mistakes, and the attitude that would fester from frustration. "He is his harshest critic," Barton said. "But that's to his credit. He's taken his game to a more daily consistent level. It's his effort."

"I saw guys today that were right where I was (in the beginning)," Leonard said. "I tell them that I've been there, and they have to get past it and go to the next rep."

The same could be said for Locker, but you'll never see him hang his head or throw a tantrum. The place for prima donnas at the Barton camp is on the outside looking in. "He doesn't want to be treated as a God," Barton said of Locker. "He just thinks he's a regular guy," added Heaps. "He's an incredible person, and I know he's someone we look up to."

Right then, you had a former UW quarterback in Barton leading a current UW quarterback (Locker), a UW quarterback-in-training (Leonard), and a local prospect with a scholarship offer from Washington in hand (Heaps). "Just the bonding that I've seen not only with those guys, but with the other guys in that group - it's the common denomenator," Barton said. "All these guys just outwork everybody else. They want to be good."

Locker's line finishes up a footwork drill. Jake runs to the line, but isn't sprinting. He catches himself in mid-stride as he passes through the line. He gets on the ground and starts to do pushups.

"He's going to get yelled at just like an 8th-grader would their first time to camp," Barton said of Locker.

Apparently there's no rest for the best.


Here are a couple of links of interest.

Barton Football Camps

Chiles Sports Development Camps


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