The Louisville Cardinals have been playing football for the better part of 110 years (1911-12 to present) and not once has the excitement ever been what is was during Lamar Jackson’s run in the Bluegrass State.
From 2015-18, Jackson wowed the fan base weekly, while carrying an inferior Cardinals program to many unexpected wins. He was dynamic, even in losses, and kept the program competitive with elite and rare talent.
The Cardinals have been ranked as high as No. 3 twice in school history, back in 2006 and 2016, both under then head coach Bobby Petrino.
The 2006 team was more complete with a full complement of players, while the 2016 version was built solely on the arms and legs of Jackson.
"You guys have been with me every step of the way. I just can't thank you guys enough. I wouldn't want to go to any other school."@Lj_era8's full speech from today's ceremony.#GoCards pic.twitter.com/zw4aTKW8rf
— Louisville Athletics (@GoCards) November 13, 2021
Retiring Jackson’s jersey was one of the easiest decisions the school has ever had to make as the dynamic dual-threat signal caller deserved it.
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) November 13, 2021
Jackson Was Highly Recruited Out Of HS, But With An Asterisk
Coming out of high school “LJ8” was highly recruited but there were reservations about his long-term development.
He was the 12th-ranked dual-threat quarterback during the 2015 recruiting cycle.
Jackson did have 19 (Power 5) offers, but more than half of those schools mentioned him possibly switching positions or being used as a gadget player.
Interestingly enough, that stigma followed him into the pros.
Louisville was one of the only schools that wanted him to play QB only. The school also was willing to change the offense to fit Jackson’s unique skill set, which consisted of him running and throwing, and using both his arms and legs equally.
His high school coach Rick Swain spoke to 247Sports and said this about Jackson:
“When I first saw him stick his foot in the ground, I said (former Nebraska All-American quarterback Tommie Frazier). That was the first thing out of my mouth. I’d never seen anyone run that option as quick as (Jackson) could. Lamar would be in the secondary before our kids ever knew what happened. After I saw him that first practice I knew his potential was unlimited.”
Jackson Becomes Youngest Heisman Trophy Winner In History: (19 Years and 337 Days)
As the 2016 college football season began, Jackson was mentioned lightly as a preseason Heisman favorite. The major hype surrounded players like Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), Leonard Fournette (LSU) and JT Barrett (Ohio State).
And while all had great seasons, none had a better year than Jackson, who also carried a much less-talented roster than those aforementioned players.
Jackson performed admirably all season with many Heisman moments.
These two moments stand out.
In a (42-36) loss at Clemson, Jackson nearly single-handedly defeated the Tigers in Death Valley.
In that game, he went for 457 total yards (295 passing and 162 rushing).
It’s a game where the team trailed 28-10 at the half, but Jackson’s second-half heroics took the lead to 36-28 before the team fell at the end.
Also that season with his Heisman campaign firmly off the ground, Jackson went full throttle and showed out at home in a 63-20 annihilation of the then No.3 Florida State Seminoles.
Jackson went for 462 total yards (216 passing and 146 rushing) and five touchdowns.
Jackson finished his amazing campaign with 5,114 total yards and 51 total touchdowns.
2017 Junior Season Is Again One For The Ages, But Questions Linger About NFL Future
In 2017, Jackson wasn’t done shredding defenses as he went for a grand total of 5,261 yards and 45 more total touchdowns. But we all know they weren’t giving him another Heisman as the only player to ever win two is Archie Griffin and he’s a running back.
The powers that be weren’t going to let lightning strike twice, but to be fair, the Cardinals’ record (8-4) and lack of signature wins thwarted that notion of Jackson winning another Heisman.
Jackson still finished as a top-3 Heisman finalist with an invite to New York for the second consecutive year.
Jackson decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
The rest is pretty much history as Jackson was the last of five quarterbacks selected in the first round but has turned out to be the best of the bunch, already winning an NFL MVP Award and establishing himself as one of the all-time winners in the sport through the first four years of his career.
Jackson Wins NFL MVP In First Season As Starter
In his first full season as starter for the Ravens, Jackson electrified the league with his dual-threat ability in leading them to a (14-2) record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. For his efforts, he was named unanimous NFL MVP.
He also quickly changed some outdated opinions about dual-threat quarterbacks.
“I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Former Colts GM Polian told USA Today Sports.
Since then, Jackson hasn’t slowed down one bit and if he stays on his current trajectory he’ll have another jersey retired, but this one will be inside M&T Bank Stadium located in the heart of Baltimore City.