Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson entered this season as a relative unknown, with more than one hurdle to clear. He’ll exit it with the Heisman Trophy.
Jackson capped his remarkable rise with the first Heisman Trophy in school history, having wowed enough voters — despite losses in his final two games — with 51 total touchdowns and 4,928 total yards.
What Jackson accomplished in 2016 goes down as the greatest season ever at Louisville — a school where Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas starred in the 1950s.
Jackson had a speech prepared but he stopped at various points to say, “This is crazy.” He got through the written portions while also improvising, saying his speech “started coming from the heart.”
“To be the first person from Louisville to win it, it’s an honor. I’m humbled.”
Jackson is the third player in FBS history — joining Cam Newton and Tim Tebow — with 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in a season. He set ACC and school records for touchdowns responsible (51) in a season and yards in a single game (610, versus Syracuse), plus school records for most single-season rushing yards (1,538) and most touchdowns in a single game (eight), and he became the first quarterback in school history with a 1,000-yard rushing season.
After finishing third in the balloting in 2015, Watson, meanwhile, became the 11th player with multiple top-three finishes without a Heisman win and the first to do so since Andrew Luck during the 2010-11 seasons.
It is only the seventh time in Heisman history — and first since 2008 (Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Texas’ Colt McCoy) — that the winner and runner-up hailed from the same conference.
Before the ceremony began, Jackson was asked whether he ever dreamed about winning the Heisman.
“I thought about it a lot growing up, playing the NCAA video games,” Jackson said. “I was like, ‘Man, it would be great to go to college and win that award.’ So just to be sitting here right now and having my name talked about, it’s crazy.”