If you haven’t watched Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson play football yet — and the television ratings suggest you most likely have not — you’re going to roll your eyes at this, and you should. Your skepticism is 100 percent, fully warranted. I get it. But on behalf of those of us who have watched him play, and have thus been converted, I’m going to say it anyway. Right up front, man: Lamar Jackson looks like the second coming of Michael Vick.
I acknowledge that that statement is, objectively, kind of crazy. At the very least it’s premature. This Saturday’s game against Florida State will be only Jackson’s 11th college start, and the eight he made last year, as a true freshman, didn’t generate anywhere near that kind of hyperbole. Sure, he flashed some obvious potential, in the way a handful of young, mobile quarterbacks seem to do every year (gifted athlete, raw as a passer, etc.) and a stellar performance in the Cardinals’ Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M made him a popular choice for a “breakthrough” sophomore campaign that would put him on the national radar within the sport.
But the preseason hype didn’t rise to the level of Heisman buzz, and certainly didn’t foreshadow the hosannas that have followed his first two outings of the young season. Jackson was good, but not in the same class as, say, Deshaun Watson or Baker Mayfield. He wasn’t Michael Vick good. No one thought, yeah, this kid is The One.
So if you’re looking at Jackson’s skyrocketing stock based on his performances against Charlotte and Syracuse and what you see is a bubble waiting to burst, well, you have a point. It’s too soon. Already almost all of the way-too-early Heisman watch lists have promoted Jackson to no. 1 (ESPN, CBS, USA Today) or close to it (FOX, Sports Illustrated, Newsday) with a bullet, more or less inviting the “September Heisman” label that exists precisely to mock such runaway enthusiasm based on such scant evidence. These ascendant talents, they come and go.