On Dec. 10, 2016, quarterback Lamar Jackson made history by becoming the youngest player to win the Heisman Award.
Coming out of high school, recruiting companies had differing opinions on the talent of Jackson. ESPN and 247Sports ranked him as a 3-star recruit, while Rival.com saw him as a 4-star talent. Due to his excellent ability to run with the ball, there were many conversations from both the media and schools to transition Jackson from quarterback. With offers from multiple Power Five schools, a promise from the then-head coach of Louisville, Bobby Petrino, that the dual-threat quarterback would only play quarterback ensured that Jackson would commit to playing for the Cardinals over schools such as Florida State and Clemson.
Jacksons’ first season in Louisville was nothing to write home about and gave his critics a lot of ammunition. He played in 12 games, throwing 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions during his freshman campaign. His running ability shined, rushing for 960 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. In his eight starts, Louisville went 8-5.
Jackson did show flashes, especially in the Music City Bowl held in Nashville’s Nissan Stadium. In a matchup against Texas A&M, Jackson set a Music City Bowl record with 226 yards on the ground. He led Louisville to a 27-21 victory with two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
The Heisman campaign started immediately the next season. In Louisville’s first game, Jackson set a school record with eight total touchdowns. Even crazier, he did it all in the first half of their 70-14 rout of the Charlotte 49ers.
The dual-threat was electric, and it didn’t matter to the opponent. The next game, Jackson and the Cardinals traveled to Syracuse and dominated them. Jackson was unstoppable again during the first half, scoring all five touchdowns in the first two periods.
His first true test was when Florida State, who were ranked No. 2 in the country and had future multi-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, came to town. Shocking everyone, the Cardinals blew them out, much thanks to Jackson rushing for 146 yards and reaching the end zone four times. This game made Jackson the Heisman favorite and moved Louisville up to No. 3, the highest the program has been since 2006.
While the team’s success did not stay at the same level, Jackson’s production did. He finished with 3,543 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, and nine interceptions to go along with an absurd 1,571 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. Those video game like numbers were enough to be selected as the Heisman Trophy winner at 19.
The following season, he finished third in Heisman voting, despite his number being arguably better than the previous year, losing out to quarterback Baker Mayfield. Jackson then declared for the NFL Draft.
More discussions about Jackson’s position came up during the draft process, with some analysts suggesting that the dual-threat quarterback should switch positions due to his athleticism, but Jackson shut down those ideas. He was selected by the Baltimore Ravens at the tail end of the first round, hoping he could be a future franchise quarterback after developing under Joe Flacco for a couple of years.
Jackson played sparingly to start during his rookie season, in short stints during blowout games. But when Flacco went down with a hip injury midway through the season, he took the reins and ran with them. The Ravens finished the season 6-1 with Jackson under center. He exceeded all expectations and took them to the playoffs, becoming the youngest quarterback to start an NFL playoff game.
In his first full season as a starter, Jackson won MVP, becoming the second player since Tom Brady to be voted as a unanimous winner and he became the second-youngest player to win.
Many doubted Lamar Jackson throughout his football career, both collegiately and professionally, but his resume speaks for itself. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks of the modern generation, and we will just have to wait and see how he will continue to build on what is already an amazing career.