The 2019 National Football Season was dominated by young, breakout, star-caliber players. From dueling quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Kailer Murray, to explosive first-year tailbacks Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders, to defensive personnel Nick Bosa and TJ Watt – the entertainment value was sky-high.
Fast forward through Super Bowl LIV, the 2020 offseason, and the first six months of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the 2020-21 NFL season has begun without a hitch. Once again, leading the charge is 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson. After winning the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore with Louisville in 2016, the now 23-year-old quarterback went on to hear his name called 32nd overall in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He has since more than made his mark with the Baltimore Ravens over the course of the past season.
A Historic Year
Fully established as the Ravens’ starter by September of 2019, Jackson put up incredible numbers in a historic year behind center. Beginning his first full season with 324 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-10 Week 1 victory over Miami, the Florida product became the youngest quarterback to earn a perfect “passer rating.” The next week, Jackson became the first player ever to pass for 250 yards and rush for 120 yards in a single game.
By Week 6, he had set a new record as the first player in NFL history to pass for 200 yards and rush for 150 yards – also in just one game. In Week 11, Jackson set a record as the only quarterback to ever rush for 60+ yards in seven-straight contests, while Week 13 saw Jackson set the NFL record as the first quarterback with four 100+ yard rushing games in a single season.
In the playoffs, Jackson became the first player to ever throw for over 300 yards, while also rushing for over 100 yards in the same postseason game. Just before being voted in as only the second-ever unanimous league MVP (Tom Brady), Jackson started for the AFC in the 2020 Pro Bowl, becoming the youngest quarterback in NFL history to ever earn that right.
Yes, it’s safe to say that Lamar Jackson had one heck of a record-breaking 2019-20 season.
God Is Number One
Having begun 2020-21 with three touchdowns and a near-perfect passer rating in his opening week victory over Chicago, Jackson is clearly the frontrunner for yet another MVP trophy.
“If you feel like you’re bigger than the Lord, that’s when all that success dies.”
Despite the personal success and all the newfound fame and glory, the lifelong Christian remains humble to his core. When asked more on the subject, Jackson offered up the following:
“The Lord,” he said. “I give him all his praise, the glory, the honor, because of what I am. I could have been doing anything – it’s crazy. I’ll be thinking about it, talking to him throughout the day, like, ‘Man, I appreciate you, I thank you.'”
As simple as Jackson makes it sound, the actual act of constant praise and adoration takes serious effort and dedication – something that many professional athletes do not seem to find the time for.
“If you feel like you’re bigger than the Lord, that’s when all that success dies. It goes away,” he added. “You’ve got to let him know he’s the reason you’ve had that much success. So I appreciate that from him. And I’ve got my family around me, my teammates – great teammates, and coaching staff. We’ve just got to keep it going and let the Lord know that he’s number one.”
Prior to becoming just the third quarterback in NFL history with two perfect passer ratings in a single season (Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers), Jackson was named the youngest recipient of the Heisman Trophy in 2016 (19 years, 338 days) as the most outstanding college football player in the United States. His acceptance speech began in such a way:
“First and foremost, before I go further along in my speech, I want to thank my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,” Jackson said in 2016. “Without him, none of us would be here right now.”
The Super 8
Although known by his teammates and even some opponents as one of the guys who “prays before every game,” many of Jackson’s daily practices go unnoticed. Following the sudden death of his father when Jackson was just a youth, the God-fearing, University of Louisville graduate was raised in near-poverty under the care of his mother, Felicia. Among many other important life skills, she based her teachings to Lamar on what she called the “Super 8”: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character and discipline.
During his two weeks of mandatory, league-imposed self-quarantine, Jackson opted to get a new tattoo, which now proudly displays the words faith, family and football in indelible ink across his chest. Clearly, the early childhood lessons learned from his mother have paid off.
Jackson looks to continue his quest for a second-straight league MVP, and, most importantly, a Super Bowl championship as the 2020-21 NFL season continues.