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Jackson was selected with the 32nd overall pick by the Ravens in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He began his rookie season as a backup, but became the team's starting quarterback following an injury to starter Joe Flacco. During the season, Jackson helped the team clinch the AFC North division title and became the youngest quarterback to start a playoff game. In 2019, his first full season as starter, Jackson set a record for the most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback and led the league with 36 touchdown passes.
Jackson was born to Felicia Jones and Lamar Jackson Sr. on January 7, 1997, and grew up in the center of an economically distressed section of Pompano Beach, Florida. Lamar Sr. died in a car accident on the same day Lamar's grandmother died in 2005 when Jackson was eight and he and his siblings were thereafter raised by their mother. He attended public schools and played Pop Warner football in the same Florida league with future Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown, though they were on different teams, with Jackson playing for the Pompano Beach Cowboys. Jackson's cousin, Oakland Raiders cornerback Trayvon Mullen, and Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley also competed against Jackson in that league. Growing up, his favorite player was Michael Vick. At age eight, Jackson could throw a football 20 yards according to his first quarterback coach, Van "Peanut" Wilson and while he was in high school a homemade video shows him throwing a football 100 yards.
At Boynton Beach, Jackson played two seasons of varsity football. Boynton Beach coach Rick Swain remembered Jackson as a hard worker who continually improved his passing accuracy and decision-making and who watched hours of film each week. In his two years (16 games) at Boynton Beach, Jackson threw for 2,263 yards and 31 touchdowns, ran for 1,624 yards and 22 touchdowns, and a high school career accumulated quarterback rating of 102.7. Jackson's last high school game came against a nationally ranked Miami Central High School team during the first round of the 2014 Florida High School Football Playoff 6A tournament. Boynton Beach was soundly defeated 49-6, with Jackson throwing two interceptions. He also competed for his high school track team, posting a personal record of 11.45 seconds in the 100 meter dash. Jackson was named the Lou Groza Palm Beach County High School Player of the Year in 2014, was rated by Rivals.com as a four-star recruit and had dozens of offers from big college football programs but he committed to the University of Louisville after head coach Bobby Petrino gave his word to Felicia Jones that her son would be playing quarterback and nothing else.
As a freshman at Louisville in 2015, Jackson played in 12 games and made eight starts. He completed 135-of-247 passes for 1,840 yards with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions and ran for 960 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. He was named the MVP of the 2015 Music City Bowl after passing for 227 yards with two touchdowns and rushing for a Music City Bowl-record 226 yards and two touchdowns.
During the first game of his sophomore year, against the Charlotte 49ers, Jackson set a school record for total touchdowns with eight, all of them in the first half. Against Syracuse, Jackson completed 20 of 39 passes for 411 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, with 199 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns, with all five touchdowns coming in the first half. Against #2 Florida State, Jackson completed 13 of 20 passes for 216 yards, threw one touchdown and one interception, and had 146 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. He scored 4 of the 5 total touchdowns in the first half. The game made Jackson the Heisman front runner, and gave the Cardinals a No. 3 ranking, their highest since 2006. Against Marshall, Jackson completed 24 of 44 passes for 417 yards and 5 touchdowns, and had 62 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Against No. 5 Clemson, Louisville's offense totaled 586 yards, with Jackson accounting for 295 passing yards, 162 rushing yards, and three total touchdowns (1 passing, 2 rushing). The Cardinals eventually lost the game 42-36. On December 8, Jackson was awarded the Walter Camp Award as the player of the year and the Maxwell Award as the best all-around player in college football.
Aside from nationally recognized awards, Jackson also won prestigious awards within the University of Louisville. In 2017, Jackson won a Louie for being named the Adidas High Performance Male Athlete of the Year for his outstanding sophomore campaign. He also won a Louie for Play of the Year after the leap he made in the 2016 Syracuse game.
When Jackson entered the 2017 season, his fan base and media had high expectations of his performance. College GameDay announced their return to the University of Louisville to host the opening matchup on September 16 between the returning National Champions, Clemson Tigers, and the Cardinals. Despite the 47-21 blowout the Tigers achieved, Jackson did not let the numbers affect his playing ability. His remarkable statistics for the season resulted in his being a Heisman finalist for the 2017 season. He finished in third place in the Heisman voting, losing out to Baker Mayfield and Bryce Love. Jackson played in 13 games, finishing with 3,660 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.
On January 5, 2018, Jackson announced that he would enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Some draft pundits doubted Jackson's quarterback abilities and suggested that he switch positions due to his athleticism, but he remained adamant about his intention to play quarterback professionally. He declined to run drills such as the 40-yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine, in order to focus on displaying his passing skills.
Jackson was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round with the 32nd overall pick in the draft; they traded up for the selection with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the fifth quarterback selected that year. On June 5, 2018, Jackson signed his rookie contract, reportedly worth $9.47 million with a $4.97 million signing bonus.
2018 season: Rookie year
Jackson made his NFL debut relieving starting quarterback Joe Flacco in the second half of a 47-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills, finishing with 24 passing yards and 39 rushing yards. During Week 7, Jackson scored his first NFL touchdown on a 1-yard run as the Ravens narrowly lost to the New Orleans Saints by a score of 24-23. Jackson threw his first NFL touchdown pass, a 26-yard completion to fellow rookie tight end Hayden Hurst, the next week in relief of Flacco in the fourth quarter of a 36-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Jackson in 2018
On November 18, 2018, Jackson made his first NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals in place of the injured Joe Flacco, who injured his hip two weeks prior against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson went 13 for 19 for 150 yards and an interception and rushed for 117 yards, which was a Ravens franchise record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game in a 24-21 victory. The following week against the Oakland Raiders, Jackson threw for 178 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. He also rushed for 71 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Ravens won by a score of 34-17. During Week 13 against the Atlanta Falcons, Jackson passed for 125 yards and rushed for 75 yards and a touchdown in a 26-16 victory. In a Week 14 27-24 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Jackson threw two touchdowns for the first time in his career.
Jackson helped the Ravens defeat the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 16, completing 12 of 22 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown in a 22-10 upset victory. The following week against fellow rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, Jackson passed for 179 yards and rushed for two touchdowns on 95 rushing yards, despite fumbling a third potential touchdown at the goal line, as the Ravens beat the Browns 26-24 to clinch the AFC North title. In the seven regular season games in which Jackson had started, the Ravens went 6-1 to close out the 2018 season. Overall, he finished with 1,201 passing yards, six passing touchdowns, and three interceptions. In addition, he led all quarterbacks with 695 rushing yards and added five rushing touchdowns.
Jackson became the youngest quarterback to ever start a playoff game when the Ravens faced off at home against the Chargers in a rematch during the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. Despite being held to just 25 passing yards at one point in the fourth quarter by a stout Chargers defense, Jackson then passed for two touchdowns in four minutes to bring the Ravens back from a 20-point deficit to within a touchdown. After forcing the Chargers to punt with less than a minute left, the Ravens had one last chance to win the game down six points, but Jackson was strip-sacked by Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. With the Chargers recovering the ball, the Ravens lost 23-17 and were knocked out of the playoffs. He finished the game completing 14 of 29 passes for 194 yards, the two aforementioned touchdowns, and an interception while rushing for 54 yards, losing one fumble.
Once the 2018 season was over, the Ravens's coaching staff decided to abandon the offensive strategy that had been designed for Joe Flacco and create a new offensive philosophy centered around the specific skills of Jackson. That philosophy included changing every play in the playbook, the terminology used and drafting players or acquiring free agents that would complement Jackson's skills.
2019 season: Unanimous NFL MVP
In the season-opener against the Miami Dolphins, Jackson went 17 of 20 for career-high 324 yards and five touchdowns, making him the youngest quarterback to achieve a perfect passer rating in the 59-10 road victory. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week due to his performance. During Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, Jackson rushed for 120 yards and threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, as the Ravens won by a score of 23-17. His two touchdown passes set the Ravens' franchise record for the most touchdown passes in the team's first two games of a season. Jackson became the first player in NFL history to pass for more than 250 yards and rush for 120 yards in one game.
During Week 6 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jackson finished with 236 passing yards, 152 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown as the Ravens won 23-17. He also became the first player in NFL history to pass for more than 200 yards and rush for 150 yards in a regular-season game, and had more rushing yards than any player at any position in Week 6. During Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks, Jackson finished with 143 passing yards and 116 rushing yards with a rushing touchdown as the Ravens won 30-16. After a Week 8 bye, the Ravens faced the unbeaten New England Patriots. In that game, Jackson threw for 163 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns in the 37-20 victory. For his performance, Jackson earned his second AFC Offensive Player of the Week award.
In the next game, the Ravens routed the Bengals 49-13 with Jackson throwing for 223 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a perfect passer rating. He became only the second player in NFL history to produce two perfect passer ratings in the same season. Jackson joined Aaron Rodgers (2019) and Joe Montana (1989) as the only players in the Super Bowl era with 15-plus completions, 3-plus passing touchdowns, 1-plus rushing touchdowns, and a perfect passer rating in a single game. Jackson also earned his third total, and second consecutive, AFC Offensive Player of the Week award, matching his predecessor Joe Flacco's career total.
During Week 11 against the Houston Texans, Jackson became the first quarterback in franchise history to throw four or more touchdowns in a game multiple times during the regular season after he threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 victory. Jackson also rushed for 86 yards during the victory over the Texans making him the only quarterback in NFL history to rush for more than 60 yards in seven consecutive games. In the next game against the Los Angeles Rams, Jackson threw for 169 yards and five touchdowns in the 45-6 road victory, making him the first player with that many touchdowns in a Monday Night Football debut and the youngest player with multiple five touchdown passing games in NFL history. He earned his fourth AFC Offensive Player of the Week award due to his performance. He was named the AFC's Player of the Month for November. In the next game against the San Francisco 49ers, Jackson finished with 105 passing yards, 101 rushing yards, and two total touchdowns as the Ravens won 20-17, and Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history with four 100-yard rushing games in a season. In Week 14, in the 24-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Jackson became the first quarterback since Michael Vick to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.
In a nationally televised Thursday Night Football game against the New York Jets in Week 15, Jackson had 212 passing yards for five touchdowns, and eight rushes for 86 yards during the 42-21 win, breaking Vick's single-season rushing record for a quarterback. His five passing touchdowns in the game made him the sixth player since the merger to have three games with at least five passing touchdowns in a season, and tied the Ravens franchise season record with 33. After his performance against the Jets, Jackson was named AFC Player of the Week for week 15. In Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns, Jackson was held to 38 passing yards and a lost fumble in the first 28 minutes, before exploding for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the last two minutes before halftime. He added a third touchdown pass in the second half of the 31-15 win, setting the Ravens single season record for touchdown passes at 36, finishing with 238 passing yards and 103 rushing yards. On the day after the Ravens' victory over the Browns, and due to the Ravens' having clinched home-field advantage, head coach John Harbaugh announced that Jackson, guard Marshal Yanda, safety Earl Thomas and defensive tackle Brandon Williams would be inactive for the Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even without playing in the Ravens final game, Jackson led all quarterbacks with 36 touchdown passes and a QBR of 81.10; he also led all rushers with a 6.9 yards per carry average. During the 2019 season he was also first with 43 total touchdowns and a 9.0 passing touchdown percentage.
In the Divisional round versus the Tennessee Titans, Jackson and the Ravens were not able to recreate the same success that they had in the regular season, losing 28-12. Jackson finished the game completing 31 of 59 passes for 365 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He also rushed 20 times for 143 yards becoming the first player to throw for 300+ yards and rush for 100+ yards in a playoff game. In total, Jackson personally accounted for over 500 yards of offense.
Jackson was the starting quarterback at the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida. He threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and was named the offensive Most Valuable Player. He became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start a Pro Bowl game.
In the season-opener against the Cleveland Browns, Jackson went 20 for 25 for 275 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens 38-6 victory. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week due to his performance.
In Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, Jackson threw for a career low 97 yards and a touchdown during the 34-20 loss. In the Ravens Week 4, 31-17 victory over the Washington Football Team, Jackson threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 52 yards and one touchdown making him the fastest player in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing.
Prior to the start of the 2019 NFL season, Jackson appeared on ABC's Celebrity Family Feud, pitting current NFL players against former NFL players. Jackson's athletic abilities were featured in GEICO and Pizza Hut commercials which aired during the 2019 season. During week 12 of the 2019 NFL season, the makers of the Madden NFL video game series announced that Jackson's character speed would be upgraded from 94 to 96, making Jackson the fastest quarterback in that game's history. On June 16, 2020, EA Sports unveiled its Madden NFL 21 video game with Lamar Jackson as the cover athlete. It was released on August 28, 2020.
On Cyber Monday 2019, major sportswear retailer Fanatics announced that its Lamar Jackson sportswear outsold every other professional athlete's sportswear. That same week, Pope Francis was gifted a Lamar Jackson Ravens jersey.
I watch this guy Lamar Jackson. There are occasionally these players that are inspiring because you can see the game that they play is a game, and you can actually sense the joy they have in what they do. That's inspiring. Watching Lamar Jackson is an inspiration to actors.
In February 2020, BET Digital highlighted Jackson as one of 40 of the most inspiring and innovative vanguards in African American culture and who are redefining what it means to be "unapologetically young, gifted & Black".
Jackson gained a communications major at the University of Louisville while he played his college football there.
In 2018, Jackson announced the launch of his sportswear line, Era 8 Apparel. During his wildly successful 2019 NFL season it was widely speculated that major sports apparel corporations like Nike or Under Armor would compete to sign Jackson to an endorsement deal; but Jackson has not signed with any national brand and continues to protect his own Era 8 Apparel brand. In March 2020, Jackson filed a federal lawsuit against Amazon, charging the corporate giant with engaging in the "deliberate and unauthorized use" of Jackson's name, image and persona. The suit also alleges that Amazon had unlawfully infringed on his right of publicity in connection with alleged "false advertising and endorsement of unlicensed and infringing articles of clothing."
In August 2020, Jackson signed an endorsement deal with Oakley, Inc., a company that makes sunglasses, sports goggles and football helmet visors.