Lamar Jackson Continues To Defy Skeptics
By Angel Maldonado
“You could hear cheering outside the draft room. You could hear the coaches and you could hear the scouts. That was a powerful moment for us.” Those were the words of Ravens GM Eric Decosta after he drafted Lamar Jackson with the 32nd pick of the NFL Draft.
It was also a powerful moment for the 37,144,530 black residents of the United States.
The NFL, despite being majority African American, has had a history of not opening their doors to Black QBs. During the 2017 NFL Draft Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, two of the premier QBs in the NFL today, were picked after Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears. Mahomes and Watson were clearly physically superior, had better college careers, and had shown a high football IQ throughout their entire careers. Still, they were picked after Trubisky. Go back even further, and you’ll find the story of Willie Totten and his lack of Draft hype despite 58 senior year touchdowns.
Fast forward to the 2018 NFL draft and the results were the same… And Lamar Jackson is holding a grudge.
While the Ravens cheered and celebrated their 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the mood of the future MVP candidate was drastically different. As he gave his post-draft interviews, you could hear the determination in his voice. He wasn’t celebrating being drafted in the First Round. He was motivated by being chosen with the last pick of the 1st Round… and the realization that many people believed he wasn’t good enough to be an NFL Quarterback.
“He’s a Running Back” NFL pundits would proclaim after Jackson was drafted. NFL scouts asked if he was willing to play Wide Receiver. Others believed he wasn’t smart enough to be an NFL QB. It wasn’t hard to read between the lines. Jackson took note.
“It is annoying because quarterback is all I played all my life,” Jackson said. “People look at my legs and they see I can make big plays, but they don’t really see my arm, and I make big plays with my arm. I scored more touchdowns with my arm than my legs so …”
The frustration built throughout the draft process. He was constantly ranked lower than Josh Allen, a prospect who had a college resume strikingly similar to his… yet whose intelligence wasn’t being questioned and someone who was not being asked to switch positions. Of course, this was nothing new. Still, he was determined to prove everyone wrong and when his number was called, he was ready.
“Just an honor for the Ravens organization to believe in me. And all the teams that passed me up … there’s a lot that’s gonna come with that.”
He was right.
After an up and down 2018, Jackson began the 2019 season with an emphatic statement, tossing 5 Touchdowns in a historic rout of the Miami Dolphins. He has since beat Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Deshaun Watson. Emphatically.
After Week 14 of the NFL’s 100th season, Lamar Jackson stands alone as the frontrunner for NFL MVP. He has led the Baltimore Ravens to an 11-2 record, good for 1st in the AFC. This comes on the heels of a season that saw Jackson turn around the Ravens’ fortunes and secure them a playoff berth.
He has rushed for over 1000 yards this season. He is assuredly going to break Michael Vick’s All Time NFL Record for rushing yards in a single season. As he continues to thrive, people will continue to question his success. They will say he’s bound to get hurt. They’ll credit his dark skin for helping him fake the ball. And he’ll keep proving them wrong.
Still, perhaps more importantly, he is inspiring generations to come. He’s an exciting, dynamic, and likeable player. He’s inspiring generations of black children to break through the racial stigmas associated with the Quarterback position. In the NFL’s 100th season, he’s helping them look towards the future. He’s doing all of this in just his second year in the league.
Not bad for a Running Back.