MIAMI — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson began this season captivating the Hard Rock Stadium crowd with a five-touchdown performance in his first pro game in his native South Florida.
“Not bad for a running back,” Jackson joked quickly criticizing his own critics who opined that he should play another position altogether.
What we didn’t know at the time was it was only the beginning of one of the best NFL seasons by a quarterback in recent history.
Jackson became the youngest MVP in NFL history during the NFL Honors show at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Saturday. He also won the award unanimously.
"There’s been a lot of doubt about me being a running back, and I had a great group of guys and an organization that believed in me,” Jackson said while accepting the award.
John Harbaugh, who won AP Coach of the Year, took no credit for Jackson’s successful season. Instead, he praised Jackson and his mother for their work together to get him to this level.
"I think his mom is the hero in this whole thing. His mom had his back the whole way,” Harbaugh said.
“You raise your kids, and you want to see them do well and you fight for them a little bit. All along the way, because of circumstances and situations and history or whatever of football, he wasn't supposed to be a quarterback, right? And his mom made sure he was a quarterback.
“And here he is playing at the highest level, different and in a way that gets us all fired up to see. So give [the credit] to his mom. I'm excited to see what's next.”
He was anointed as the best player in the NFL after just his second season.
Jackson became the most exciting player in football, stealing that crown from Kansas City Chiefs Star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, just like he became the NFL’s youngest MVP one season after Mahomes achieved the feat.
Jackson won at 23 years old, 25 days, while Mahomes won at 23 years old, four months and 16 days. Both followed former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who won during his second season in 1984, as the youngest to win MVP.
While Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to reach Sunday’s Super Bowl game at Hard Rock Stadium, Jackson and the Ravens fell short during their playoff run, being upset by Former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.
Still, Jackson shined brightly by leading the Ravens (14-2) to the best record in the NFL during the regular season, helping Harbaugh win the coach of the year honor, and becoming the first player in league history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Jackson threw a league-high 36 touchdowns, while completing 66.1 percent of his passes for 3,127 yards, with the third-highest passer rating (113.3) in the league. He also finished sixth in the NFL with 1,206 yards rushing, while scoring seven rushing touchdowns, too.
After spending his rookie season behind Super bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco, Jackson showed during his second season that he is on the cusp of his talents as a leader and football player with the Ravens.
Along the way, his Ravens teammates galvanized around him. Even his running back Mark Ingram created a viral moment with a lengthy introduction of Jackson for a postgame press conference using the phrase “big truss.” The phrase resonated with NFL fans as the Ravens used it as a sign of agreement and endearment during their season.
Jackson also won Offensive MVP at the Pro Bowl in Orlando a week ago, throwing for 185 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, with two carries for 6 yards, in just three offensive drives.
Now that his standout second season in the NFL is behind him, Jackson vows to improve in all areas of his game.
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If he hasn’t already, he could become the NFL’s next, great transcendent player to transform the league for years to come.