DODD COLUMN: Lamar Jackson winning with his own playbook | Opinion

“I can’t study this.”

Lamar Jackson

In a rare interview in Bleacher Report with Lamar Jackson in 2016 he described how confused he was with the University of Louisville playbook. The average playbook for a Division One college football program is over 100 pages.

In high school while playing at Boynton Beach High there was no playbook. There was a skinny kid whose athletic skills were off the chart. His high school coach drew up x’s and o’s on a chalkboard and let the skinny quarterback pretty much use his God-given skills.

His resume’ in two years in high school as a quarterback included 2,263 yards of offense and 31 touchdowns. Florida is always a hotbed of college talent. In 2014 Lamar was named Lou Groza Palm Beach County Player of the Year.

The fact that Lamar could almost score at will with his remarkable speed and juke moves was great for Boynton but detrimental for Lamar Jackson’s development as a quarterback. At the next level he had to learn how to be a pocket passer. And he had to learn over 100 pages of a playbook. QBs usually learn the entire playbook and know what every player assignment is on a particular play.

Quoting from the Bleacher Report interview on that first playbook — “It looked like foreign letters.”

On Dec. 10, 2016, Lamar Jackson made history by becoming the youngest player ever to win the Heisman Trophy. Jackson was rated only a 3-star recruit just two years earlier. Most schools who recruited him said he had to play another position than quarterback.

An average NFL playbook contains 153 plays. Just a couple of years later Lamar Jackson went against the Miami Dolphins in the NFL and was the youngest player in NFL history to earn a perfect passer rating. He now owns three of them, which ties him with several Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks as the most in the history of the NFL.

That year he became the youngest player to ever win the NFL MVP award.

In 2005, when Lamar Jackson was 8 years old, his father and a grandmother died on the same day leaving his mother to raise four kids on her own. She got the kids ready and left the house very early every morning for work. Lamar offered to get a job to help his mother, but she insisted that he focus on school and football. Lamar played sparingly on the football team in the 9th and 10th grades

Mom Felica has always been his inspiration. He refers to her as his, “superhero.” He also says she was the “best coach he ever had.” They would often run and work out together regardless of the weather and she made him perform endurance drills. “I’ve never played in a football game that was more tiring than those long runs on that bridge.”

Felicia had been a former college basketball player. In addition to her workouts, she enlisted the help of a local trainer, Van Warren, who began working with Lamar when he was 8.

After Lamar left and graduated from the University of Louisville, mom Felicia Jones and Warren established a free Sunday football clinic. The Super 8 training program is based on 8 core values: God, prayer, faith, family, education, sacrifice, character, and discipline. In May 2023, and without an agent, Felicia Jones helped Lamar negotiate a five-year, $260-million contract making him the highest paid NFL player in history.

Per a Courier Journal interview while at the University of Louisville, Lamar said, “My immediate family is my mom. Everything goes around her. I’m a mama’s boy.”

Lamar is currently the odds-on favorite to win another MVP, which would as you probably have guessed by now make him the youngest NFL player in history to win two NFL MVP awards. And his Ravens are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Lamar seems interview-reluctant and rarely seeks attention for himself. His teammates consider him the ultimate team guy. He is unfailingly polite in interviews. Coaches say he is the first to come to the stadium and the last to leave on most days. He has worked relentlessly to overcome his acknowledged weaknesses as a passer. Just go to any social media site on NFL football and you can read comments from Lamar-haters and doubters. Lamar has been the target of such criticism since high school.

If Lamar wins the Super Bowl this year it will be a story that sounds like I made it up or a sappy Hallmark movie that is real. However, if that happens, don’t expect him to act as if he is special. Don’t expect him to do anything but praise God and his teammates. Don’t expect him not to walk the streets of Baltimore or his hometown in Florida and play catch with underprivileged kids or hire an ice cream truck to give them free treats.

Expect him to stay humble, caring, polite, thankful, and to continue giving back. Felicia has never allowed him to be any other way. I wouldn’t expect her to ever change. Nor Lamar.

When asked about the perks of signing his first NFL contract, Lamar responded, “You get to buy your parents a home.”

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