Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy

Lamar Jackson was trying to remember the last time he cried. He was pretty sure it involved losing a little league football game.

On Saturday night, Louisville's spectacular sophomore quarterback found out winning can get a guy choked up, too.

Jackson became the first Louisville player to win the Heisman Trophy, beating out preseason favorite Deshaun Watson of Clemson despite some late-season struggles.

Watson, who finished third last season, was a distant second. Baker Mayfield finished third and Oklahoma teammate and fellow finalist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michigan's Jabrill Peppers was fifth.

Early in the season, Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman contenders that included five of the top seven vote-getters from 2015 to become the front-runner. By the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.

Jackson accounted for 51 touchdowns and averaged 410 yards per game in total offense in his first season as Louisville's full-time starter.

"He surpassed everything I thought he could do," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said.

Jackson ultimately won the Heisman going away, with 2,144 points to Watson's 1,524. By percentage of possible points received, Jackson's victory was the seventh largest in Heisman history. He also became the youngest winner at 19 years, 337 days, a few days younger than 2013 winner Jameis Winston of Florida State.

He provided a signature moment against Syracuse , hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville's toughest competition.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clemson , Jackson threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and accounted for eight touchdowns. After ripping apart Florida State in September, he earned the stamp of approval from his idol, former Virginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).

Jackson came to Louisville as a three-star recruit from Boynton Beach High School in Florida. Some colleges were not sold on him as a quarterback, but Jackson was such a dynamic talent that Petrino altered his offense to accommodate Jackson's speed and elusiveness.

Jackson flashed brilliance as a freshman, but with so many well-established stars from Watson and Mayfield to running backs Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, he entered this season with little fanfare.

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