Some years are more straightforward than others when it comes to college football’s most prestigious award. There were arguments for Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey over Derrick Henry, but the Alabama running back was the overwhelming choice for last year’s Heisman Trophy. However, the race to flash the pose gets interesting when a candidate who wasn’t highlighted in the summer, bursts onto the scene. We saw this in 2012 when Johnny Manziel took down Alabama in Tuscaloosa and ran away with the Heisman Trophy. Remember the Cam Newton who was nearly expelled from the University of Florida and played a season at Blinn College? No, but you remember his Heisman and National Championship at Auburn.
Now, there’s another name that’s bursting onto the Heisman scene and probably won’t go anywhere in the next three months. Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson has thrown for 913 yards and rushed for 464 in three games this season. Both of those numbers are approximately half of Jackson’s respective 2015 yardage totals through the air and on the ground. He has accounted for 18 total touchdowns in three games this season. Last year, he was responsible 23 touchdowns for the entire season.
Jackson, a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com in 2015, attended Boynton Beach High School in Boynton Beach, Florida. He landed at Louisville despite also visiting the University of Florida. Jackson also had a Clemson offer on the table. Ironically, in three months, Jackson may find himself in New York as a Heisman finalist where Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson may very well be in attendance as well.
There’s still tons of football left to be played. Next week, Jackson and Watson will square off in South Carolina as Louisville travels to Clemson for a game that will be pivotal for both teams’ chances to make the college football playoff. But last week, college football fans across America watched as Jackson led Louisville to a 63-20 blowout against No. 2 Florida State. His initial coming out party was last year in the Music City Bowl against Texas A&M when he threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns and added 226 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. But, his name wasn’t mentioned much in preseason Heisman talks that were led by Watson, Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, LSU running back Leonard Fournette, and McCaffrey.
| Jamie Rhodes/USA Today Sports|
Jackson toyed with Florida State to the tune of five total touchdowns
and 366 total yards in Louisville's blowout victory last Saturday.
After the Florida State game, Jackson is squarely on the map. Manziel exploded as a redshirt freshman at Texas A&M four years ago. Jackson, a true sophomore, is just as old as Manziel was in 2012. While everyone got a glimpse of Jackson’s talent in last year’s Music City Bowl, last week’s Florida State game was Jackson’s official arrival. Next week’s visit to Clemson offers Jackson an opportunity to solidify himself as the Heisman favorite. A late-season non-conference game against Houston will be another contest worth highlighting for Jackson’s Heisman chances.
Jackson is by no means an underdog story. When you consider he was a four-star recruit from Florida with several high major offers, and started as a true freshman for an ACC school that went to a bowl game, in some ways he’s just the opposite. So what’s surprising isn’t Jackson’s production, but how quickly it’s coming. Despite his performance in the Music City Bowl, one month ago, if you asked a college football fan who the best player in the country is, Lamar Jackson wouldn’t be a name that popped up. Now, you’ll hear his name is every debate. Stay tuned.