Louisville Cardinals’ Quarterback Lamar Jackson is a rare breed.
It’s not often a quarterback comes along with elite arm talent and legitimate runningback speed and elusiveness. These gifts are what allowed Jackson to be the youngest Heisman Trophy winner in history.
As Jackson enters his junior season, he has a chance to do something truly special.
Jackson has the chance to be only the second player in college football history to win the Heisman trophy twice.
From 247 Sports:
It happens all the time.
Archie Griffin strolls onto the stage to take his place as the 1974 and 1975 Heisman Trophy winner. This is a moment of jubilation and expectation. A new member of college football’s most exclusive club has been crowned, and he’s walking down the line to shake the hand of every other Heisman winner in attendance.
When that handshake occurs, whether it was Billy Sims in 1978 or Jameis Winston in 2013, Griffin expects his singular distinction as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner to end soon.
“When a guy wins early in his career, I’ll expect he’s going to come back and do it again,” Griffin told 247Sports. “Then, for some reason or another, they don’t. Every year, somebody else pops up.”
That handshake went to Lamar Jackson in 2016, and in 2017 Jackson will embark on the most difficult individual journey in college football – the attempt to become a two-time Heisman winner.
Fourteen players have had the opportunity to win a second stiff arm trophy since the award’s inception in 1935. Only Griffin managed to win it twice. Once, it was an unspoken rule that only upperclassmen would win the award. Thus the opportunities were few and far between – only three players (Doc Blanchard, Vic Janowicz and Roger Staubach) had the chance to repeat before Griffin’s back-to-back wins. In the time since, it’s become commonplace for underclassmen and third-year players to have a chance. Jackson will be the 10th player since 1978 with the opportunity to repeat, and the eighth since the turn of the century.
A singular talent whose early-season performances were breathtaking in terms of both their force and staggering production – Jackson’s 51 total touchdowns a season ago were more than 63 percent of FBS teams scored – Jackson cruised to the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
That path this season won’t be quite so easy.
It’s a journey that started on that stage in New York all those months ago.
“When I walked across that stage and shook all the other Heisman Trophy winner’s hands, every one of them said the same thing: ‘Your life just changed,’” 2003 winner Jason White told 247Sports. “You’re young going through that, and you’re like ‘What does that mean?’ Soon as I got home, I figured that out.”
Ohio State assigned a sports information director specifically to Griffin in order to handle his requests. Legendary Buckeye head coach Woody Hayes called Griffin into his office shortly after the 1974 victory to tell his star running back: “You’ve got to learn how to say no. You can’t do anything for everybody. If you keep doing all this for everybody, it’s going to make you soft.”
Neither White nor Griffin experienced the coverage frenzy of the modern age, but they can sympathize.
“You’re no longer a name,” Griffin said. “I was no longer just Archie Griffin. I was Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.”
Winning one Heisman is difficult enough, but repeating it has proven near impossible. Claiming the award requires the perfect storm of circumstances, which aren’t likely to repeat.
Team success. Individual numbers. Health. Memorable moments. Intriguing story. Voter enchantment.
A decline in any one of these categories will torpedo a Heisman campaign. The most recent example is Jameis Winston.
He became the second redshirt freshman to win the award, and even though his team went undefeated during the regular season of his sophomore year, his campaign was beset by a drop in numbers, and off-the-field issues that resulted in a one-game suspension.
Lamar Jackson is no longer an unknown entity. He’ll have a target on his back every week.
Regardless, Jackson is an electrifying player. His quest for the repeat should be a sight to see.