Lamar Jackson is leaving Louisville to enter the NFL draft, one season after becoming the youngest Heisman Trophy winner.
The 20-year-old junior quarterback tweeted Friday that he talked with his family before announcing the decision, which was confirmed by the school.
His decision was somewhat expected after he compiled some statistics that were better than those from his Heisman-winning numbers as a sophomore. He finished third in this year’s vote.
Jackson thanked Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino, teammates and fans on Twitter. “It has been nothing short of an honor to be a member of (hash)CardsNation and to play for this university.”
Jackson, 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, is a dynamic player but it’s uncertain how high he’ll be drafted this spring. Despite accounting for 5,261 offensive yards and 45 touchdowns – his second consecutive season in which he surpassed 1,500 yards rushing and 3,500 passing – questions remain about his accuracy and size.
The native of Pompano Beach, Florida, led the Cardinals to three consecutive bowl games, though they lost their last two. Jackson totaled 329 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s TaxSlayer Bowl but also threw four interceptions in Louisville’s 31-27 loss to No. 24 Mississippi State.
Fox Sports NFL analyst Charles Davis believes Jackson can play at the next level because of improved decision-making, along with his mobility.
“If we went back to 2016, I admit that I was not as bullish on his prospects as an NFL quarterback as I am now,” Davis said recently. “What I saw in the last year reminds me of (Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Dak Prescott as a junior – minus the size because Dak is a bigger, thicker guy, and there’s no getting around that.
“A lot of his big plays before occurred because of the run. This year I saw a better pocket presence, I saw better accuracy, better delivery. I’ve seen that improvement, that growth.”
Louisville moves on without its first Heisman winner, whose resume is filled with highlights.
Jackson’s definitive moment was hurdling a Syracuse defender into the end zone in 2016 en route to 610 yards and five TDs. He accounted for five TDs and 362 yards in a 63-20 pummeling of highly ranked Florida State the following week, a performance that established him as the Heisman favorite.
Jackson also had Louisville in consideration for the 2016 College Football Playoff before a late-season slide. A midseason slump – including a second consecutive loss to Clemson in another marquee matchup – dimmed some of the spotlight before he rallied the Cardinals with three straight wins to earn another New York trip for the Heisman presentation.
“My time in Louisville has produced some of the best memories of my life,” Jackson tweeted.
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