Lamar Jackson's Age Gives Him a Very Real Shot at Canton
Few professional athletes are under a microscope more than NFL quarterbacks. For most of them, it's just a continuation of life in a fishbowl that started when they were much younger and displayed talent.
No player in recent memory has come under the microscope more than Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Most football fans can recite the highlights and lowlights of his career, chapter and verse, because it seems like he's been in our lives for that long.
But guess what? Lamar Jackson's age makes his incredible ascent to sporting fame all the more remarkable. He didn't even turn 25 years old until January 2022. And he already is on a path reserved for the all-time greats.
Check the Stats for Lamar Jackson’s Career So Far
Before we get into Lamar Jackson's backstory, it's worth looking at the highlights of what he's accomplished so far:
- NFL Most Valuable Player (2019)
- NFL All-Pro (2019)
- Two-time Pro Bowl (2019, 2021)
- Pro Bowl Offensive MVP (2019)
- NFL passing TDs leader (2019)
- NFL record: Most single-season rushing yards by QB (2019)
- NFL record: Most single-season rushing attempts by QB (2019)
- NFL record: Most 1,000-yard rushing seasons by QB (2019, 2020)
- NFL record: Most perfect passer ratings in single season (2019)
- Heisman Trophy winner (2016)
- Maxwell Award (2016)
- Walter Camp Award (2016)
- AP Player of the Year (2016)
- Unanimous AP All-American (2016)
- ACC Athlete of the Year (2018)
- Two-time ACC Player of the Year (2016, 2017)
- Two-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2016, 2017)
- Two-time All-ACC (2016, 2017)
- No. 8 retired by University of Louisville
- Louisville Cardinals Ring of Honor
- Lou Groza Palm Beach County Player of the Year (2014)
He Experienced Tragedy at a Young Age
Lamar Jackson was born on Jan. 7, 1997, in Pompano Beach, Florida, to Felicia Jones and Lamar Jackson Sr. Like most kids growing up in Florida, Lamar Jr. was obsessed with football.
In 2005, Jackson was playing quarterback on a Pompano Beach Pop Warner football team in elementary school alongside future NFL teammate and wide receiver Marquise Brown.
It was the same year Jackson and his family would have to deal with an unthinkable tragedy, when his father died of a heart attack, on the same day his grandmother died.
Jackson was just 8 years old.
Hard Work Equals High School Stardom
Lamar Jackson earned a reputation early on for being a dedicated, hard worker at Boynton Beach High School in Boynton Beach, Florida. He was a two-year starter who became known for his constant improvement through film study and the weight room.
In two years as a starter at Boynton Beach High, he racked up 3,887 yards of total offense and 53 touchdowns. And he did that in just 16 games.
Jackson's high school career ended in disappointment, with a 49-6 loss to powerhouse Miami Central High in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
You Want to Play Quarterback?
College recruiters were struck by Lamar Jackson's size and speed. At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, he recorded an 11.4-second 100-meter dash in high school.
But they couldn't agree on what position he should play in college. Recruiting services listed him as either a three-star or four-star dual-threat quarterback. The offers poured in. Jackson took official recruiting visits to Louisville, Nebraska, Florida and Mississippi State.
There was one problem. Most schools wanted Jackson to come in with some amount of flexibility. Which meant being open to a position switch.
Only one school's head coach, Louisville's Bobby Petrino, promised Jackson and his mother he would be brought in as a quarterback and nothing else.
And guess where Jackson signed? Louisville.
Directly Into the Fire at Louisville
Whatever criticism you may have of former Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino — there's plenty of things to pick from — the longtime college football head coach and former coach of the Atlanta Falcons knew exactly what he had in Lamar Jackson.
Jackson was thrown directly into the fire with Louisville. He played in 12 games and started eight games as a true freshman in 2015, throwing for 1,840 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions to go with 960 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Jackson capped the year by leading Louisville to a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl. He earned MVP honors by throwing for 227 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a Music City Bowl-record 226 yards and two touchdowns.
Superman in Real Life
Lamar Jackson put together one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history in 2016, jumping onto the radar of college football fans around the nation when he leapt over a Syracuse defender for a touchdown in the second game of the season.
Jackson cemented his status as the Heisman Trophy front-runner with a 63-20 win at No. 2 Florida State. It was the most points allowed in Florida State history as Jackson finished with 362 yards of total offense and five touchdowns, including four rushing touchdowns.
Jackson finished the season with 3,543 passing yards and 30 touchdowns and 1,571 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Heisman Trophy Winner for the Ages
On Dec. 10, 2016, Lamar Jackson became the first Heisman Trophy winner in Louisville history and the youngest Heisman Trophy winner of all time at 19 years and 337 days old.
Jackson swept the three major college football player of the year awards that year, also bringing home the Walter Camp Award and the Maxwell Award.
Jackson's season made him a top NFL prospect, but because of NFL eligibility requirements, he was forced to come back to Louisville for one more season. Once again, Jackson was a Heisman Trophy finalist as he threw for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns.
After the season was over, Jackson announced he would forgo his final year of eligibility and enter his name in the NFL draft.
Go Ahead and Keep Doubting Him
Despite his numerous accomplishments in college, including winning the Heisman Trophy, and having the prototypical size for an NFL quarterback at 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, there were still doubters about whether Lamar Jackson could play quarterback in the NFL. Some suggested he switch positions.
Jackson was adamant he would not be switching positions. He ran a reported 4.34-second 40-yard dash at Louisville, which would have been the fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL combine history, but he declined to run at the combine, instead focusing on passing drills.
The Baltimore Ravens selected Jackson in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft at No. 32 overall and signed him to a four-year contract worth $9.7 million, with a $4.97 million signing bonus.
Ravens Find Quarterback of the Future
The Baltimore Ravens already had an incumbent starting quarterback with Joe Flacco, who won a Super Bowl with the franchise in 2012, but after an injury to Flacco against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jackson took over as the starter.
With Jackson leading the way, the Ravens went 6-1 over their final seven games and clinched the AFC North title with a 26-24 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.
Despite playing less than half the season, Jackson's 695 rushing yards and five touchdowns led all NFL quarterbacks.
Jackson Named Unanimous NFL MVP
Few players have taken the NFL by storm like Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson did in 2019.
Jackson turned the Ravens into Super Bowl favorites in his first season as a full-time starter. Head coach John Harbaugh threw out the old offensive playbook and built the offense around Jackson's particular skill set.
Jackson led the Ravens to a 14-2 record in the regular season and set the NFL single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns. His 6.9 yards per carry were also an NFL record for a quarterback.
Jackson also threw for 3,127 yards, 36 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. For his efforts, he was named NFL Most Valuable Player for the 2019 season, winning the award in a unanimous vote. Jackson was just the second player in NFL history to win MVP in a unanimous vote, following Tom Brady in 2010, and the second-youngest MVP in NFL history after Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown in 1957.
In 2020, Jackson became the first NFL quarterback to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Playoff Struggles, Contract Uncertainty Loom Large
The Baltimore Ravens have seen a run of success with Lamar Jackson under quarterback. Just not quite to the levels they want it to be at.
No quarterback in the NFL has had their postseason struggles magnified like Jackson, who is 1-3 in the playoffs. The most disappointing of the losses came in the division round of the AFC playoffs following a 14-2 regular season in 2019.
Jackson was injured in Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season, and the Ravens missed the playoffs for the first time in four years with him as the starter.
Now, the future isn't quite as certain for Jackson. With other star quarterbacks his age cashing in with record-setting contracts, the Baltimore Ravens exercised their fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which will pay him $23 million in 2022.
Comparatively, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, the same year Jackson was selected, was given a six-year, $258 million contract extension with $150 million guaranteed before the 2021 season.
Jackson will bounce back, and if he keeps putting up big numbers, don't be surprised if he gets a big payday and builds a career that is worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.