Lamar Jackson has been a revelation in his second season in the NFL, as he’s all but locked up MVP honors with what he’s done in leading the Ravens to a league-best 12-2 record.
Jackson was the 32nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, meaning just about every team (including the Ravens) had passed on him once despite his college credentials that included an incredible Heisman-winning season at Louisville. There were questions about his size and passing acumen and whether he’d be able to translate his electrifying game to the next level where the athletes are better and windows are smaller.
The answer has been emphatically yes, and he will be an inspiration to an entire generation of young quarterbacks who will learn they can be exactly who they are and succeed — provided they are elite at it and given the chance and freedom to be them. Jackson is also inspiring to others outside the world of football, including legendary actor Al Pacino. That may come as a fairly stunning surprise, but the 79-year-old Academy Award winner recently spoke with The Ringer for an oral history of Any Given Sunday and explained why he takes inspiration from the joy Jackson shows in plying his craft — and also noting the similarities between he and Willie Beamen from the movie.
I watch this guy Lamar Jackson. There are occasionally these players that are inspiring because you can see the game that they play is a game, and you can actually sense the joy they have in what they do. That’s inspiring. Watching Lamar Jackson is an inspiration to actors. Finding that pocket, finding, where is that joy that gets under you and brings you out? The freedom to let go of the conscious, and get it to the unconscious and fly like he does?
With Willie Beamen, he was put in the background. Lamar was waiting behind Flacco, and I don’t see how he got overlooked. What Lamar’s doing was always there. You can clearly see it. Then you watch how he throws with such accuracy. He seems so comfortable throwing a football, like he’s been doing it all his life.
It’s pretty cool that the way Jackson plays isn’t just inspiring to young football players but also to someone like Pacino, who is a legend in his own industry. It’s also pretty telling of how Pacino tries to operate as an actor, still seeking to find the joy in doing what he’s loved to all these years later.