Louisville isn’t known as a program that produces Heisman Trophy winners. That’s because it never had – at least not until Saturday night, when Lamar Jackson became the youngest player to ever win the award.
“It means a lot,” Jackson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Just from having an all right freshman season to our team turning around and becoming a phenomenal team and increasing our record and having the first Heisman Trophy here, it’s tremendous. I just can’t wait to go back and celebrate with the guys.”
After accounting for 3,300+ total yards and 23 touchdowns (12 pass, 11 rush) as a freshman, Jackson had a season for the ages as a sophomore. He threw for 3,390 yards, ran for 1,538 and scored 51 touchdowns (30 pass, 21 rushing) in leading Louisville to a 9-3 record.
“In my freshman year, I really didn’t know the system that well,” Jackson said. “Certain things, coach just let me go out there and just perform to the best of my abilities. Then I just went back and watching my film and seeing the bad things I did, criticizing myself hard – we had an all right bowl game, we beat Texas A&M and it just went off from there.”
Jackson received 526 of 929 first-place votes and finished with 2,144 points. Deshaun Watson finished second with 1,524 points. Other finalists included Baker Mayfield, Dede Westbrook and Jabrill Peppers.
Jackson received a lot of love this past weekend from former Heisman Trophy winners, including Johnny Manziel.
“He was saying, ‘Man, enjoy this,’” Jackson recalled. “He was speaking positive. He came over and was speaking so positive, telling me things like, ‘You’re only going to be in college a certain amount of time. You need to enjoy the dream right now.’ He was speaking positive.”
Jackson, a Florida native, has played football for most of his life. He ran track when he was eight years old, but he was by and large a one-sport guy. In fact, his mother would sometimes put on pads, run drills with Jackson and tackle him.
“She didn’t take it easy on me,” Jackson said, laughing. “She built me a whole different way.”
Jackson led Louisville to a 9-1 start, but the Cardinals lost their final two games to Houston and Kentucky. Asked where he needed to grow, Jackson didn’t hesitate.
“I need to grow in everything,” he said. “This year, I didn’t end the season off how I wanted to. We lost two back-to-back, and I’m really mad about that.”
No. 13 Louisville can end the season on a high note with a win over No. 20 LSU (7-4) in the Citrus Bowl on Dec. 31. Jackson hopes to lead Louisville to the College Football Playoff next season, after which he will be draft-eligible.
Jackson is expected to be a high pick, but some NFL scouts are reportedly concerned about his size. He is listed at 6-3, 205 pounds.
“I’m only 19 years old, so I have a whole lot of (time) to (get bigger),” said Jackson, who grew up revering Michael Vick. “I’m just going to play ball. It is what it is.”