Louisville’s sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson is the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, becoming the first player in school history to win the award.
Jackson, a 6’3, 205-pound true sophomore, entered the night as a heavy favorite to win after finishing with 51 total touchdowns in 2016, an ACC record for scoring. He’s the only player besides fellow Heisman winners Tim Tebow and Cam Newton to score 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in the same season.
Jackson tallied 3,390 passing yards and 1,538 rushing yards, becoming the first player in FBS history to eclipse 3,300 and 1,500 in a single season.
The other finalists: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook, and Michigan all-purpose player Jabrill Peppers.
Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit, but it wasn’t until late in his high school career that he managed to draw the eyes of top schools while at Boynton Beach Community High School in Florida.
"He was at times forced to move around and improv a lot of his plays – at times – and it might have hurt him on the recruiting trail, because they didn’t really get to see him as much as they probably would’ve liked, sitting back throwing the ball," says Boynton Beach athletic director Evan Caruso, who took that job before Jackson’s senior year.
"But he’s beyond accurate and is very knowledgeable with Xs and Os. I think that’s something they kind of dropped the ball on."
But Jackson showed plenty of signs of his explosive talent at the high school level:
That famous hurdle he later dropped on Syracuse in 2016? Yeah, he’d done that kind of thing before, too.
His skills transitioned well to Bobby Petrino’s traditionally pro-style offense at Louisville, where Jackson saw time as a freshman in 2015. He finished the year with 12 passing and 11 rushing touchdowns, earned MVP honors at the 2015 Music City Bowl, and did stuff like this:
Michael Vick had three games of at least 100 yards passing and rushing in his collegiate career. Lamar Jackson has five this year.— SB✯Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) December 31, 2015
This year, Jackson hit another gear, with 23 touchdowns in the first four games, establishing himself as the early favorite for the Heisman.
While Jackson’s unbelievable scoring pace early in the year — which included 13 touchdowns in the first 57 minutes he played — slowed, he still led the Louisville offense to 45.3 points per game, the most in the nation in 2016.
And after Jackson led Louisville to a 63-20 annihilation of eventual ACC Orange Bowl rep Florida State ...
... Vick himself said:
Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech....Enough said!! #future— Mike Vick (@MikeVick) September 17, 2016
Lamar Jackson just got asked about this tweet. "That means a lot. He was my favorite player." https://t.co/CgsmhowgYv— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) September 17, 2016
One of Jackson’s most impressive performances came in a loss at Watson’s Clemson, one of the best games of the season, when he nearly led a comeback upset of the eventual No. 2 seed in the Playoff.
His single best play of the year might’ve been this game-winner against Virginia:
It’s on the road, and Louisville is down 25-24 to UVA. It happens. Clemson, in the same conference, came within a field goal of losing to NC State at home. Ohio State squeaked by Northwestern, 24-20, in Ohio Stadium. Washington only beat 3-9 Arizona, 28-21, and Alabama … let’s not talk about Alabama, or compare them to other college football teams right now. Let’s just not.
In 90 seconds, Louisville moves the ball 75 yards in eight plays for the winning score. Thirty-five of those yards come from Jackson running the ball, and 34 of them come through the air, including this 29-yarder for the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left.
Surely, later in film study, UVA’s secondary coach will just mutter the Serenity Prayer and slowly crush his laser pointer to shards in his hand.
Louisville would go on to lose two more games — one in which Jackson’s offensive line was helpless against Houston and one that turned into a shootout with Kentucky, partly due to some Jackson turnovers — but he built up such an enormous lead in the race by midseason that it would’ve taken more than that to be anything but the favorite.
Jackson’s season will conclude with a game against the No. 19 LSU Tigers in the 2016 Citrus Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 31.
And after that ...