Former Titans first-round pick Jake Locker surprisingly retires at 26

Somehow the biggest Tuesday retirement wasn't even 49ers Patrick Willis decision to step away from the game. It was former Titans first-round pick and free-agent quarterback Jake Locker who announced his decision to leave football at the age of 26.

The Titans declined to pick up Locker's fifth-year option, sending him into free agency. He was one of the top options available out there this year. Locker cited a lack of "the burning desire necessary" to keep playing.

"I am retiring from football after much reflection and discussion with my family," Locker said in a statement. "I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to realize my childhood dream of playing in the NFL and for the lifelong relationships I developed because of that experience.

"Football has always played a pivotal role in my life and I love the game, but I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living; to continue to do so would be unfair to the next organization with whom I would eventually sign. I realize this decision is surprising to many, but I know in my heart that it is the right decision and I look forward to spending more time with my family and pursuing other interests."

Locker was drafted with the 8th overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. It felt like a reach at the time, it looks like a terrible pick now and it's a reminder of how NFL economics work.

The Washington product wasn't alone in becoming a mistake in that draft. Blaine Gabbert went 10th overall to the Jaguars while Christian Ponder went 12th overall. Sandwiched in there? J.J. Watt (11th overall) and Tyron Smith (9th overall). 

Bill Polian of ESPN threw out the possibility of Locker pursuing a baseball career despite his football career ending prematurely.

That's not too insane a notion -- Locker has a cannon arm but struggled to improve his accuracy or adjust to the pros.

Locker is hanging up his cleats. (USATSI)

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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