Quar­ter­back first Louisville player to win

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Ralph Russo

new york» La­mar Jack­son leapt over a loaded field of Heis­man Tro­phy con­tenders early in the sea­son and by the time he slowed down no­body could catch him.

The sen­sa­tional sopho­more quar­ter­back be­came the first Louisville player to win the Heis­man Tro­phy on Satur­day night, beat­ing out pre­sea­son fa­vorite De­shaun Wat­son of Clem­son de­spite some late-sea­son strug­gles.

Baker May­field fin­ished third and Ok­la­homa team­mate and fel­low fi­nal­ist Dede Westbrook was fourth. Michi­gan’s Jabrill Pep­pers was fifth.

Jack­son, wear­ing a red vel­vet blazer with shiny black lapels, said he could feel his heart pound­ing in his chest right be­fore his name was an­nounced, and he barely held it to­gether while giv­ing his speech with the former Heis­man win­ners stand­ing be­hind him on stage.

“I al­most cried,” Jack­son said. “I never get emo­tional, but to have my name called and see all those great play­ers ...”

Wat­son, who fin­ished third in Heis­man vot­ing last year, led a stacked group of con­tenders en­ter­ing this sea­son that in­cluded five of the top seven vote-get­ters in 2015.

Jack­son out­did them all in his first sea­son as Louisville’s full-time starter, ac­count­ing for 51 touch­downs and av­er­ag­ing 410 yards per game in to­tal of­fense. He ul­ti­mately won go­ing away, with 2,144 points to Wat­son’s 1,524. By per­cent­age of pos­si­ble points re­ceived, Jack­son’s vic­tory was the sev­enth-largest in Heis­man his­tory, and he be­came the youngest win­ner at 19 years, 352 days, a few days young than 2013 win­ner Jameis Win­ston of Florida State.

Jack­son is the first Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner to play on a team that lost its last two games of the reg­u­lar sea­son since Tim Brown of Notre Dame in 1987. He’s the first to en­ter the post­sea­son with­out a chance to win the na­tional ti­tle since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012.

No mat­ter. Jack­son did so much be­fore Novem­ber it was dif­fi­cult to deny him the award be­cause of a cou­ple of mis­steps at the end.

He pro­vided a sig­na­ture mo­ment against Syra­cuse, hur­dling a de­fender on his way into the end zone, and then played his best against Louisville’s tough­est com­pe­ti­tion.

In a romp over Florida State and a close loss at Clem­son, Jack­son threw for 511 yards, ran for 308 and ac­counted for eight touch­downs. Af­ter rip­ping apart Florida State in Septem­ber, he earned the stamp of ap­proval from his idol, former Vir­ginia Tech and NFL star Mike Vick.

“Each and ev­ery game should be a Heis­man mo­ment,” Jack­son said.

Jack­son left that Oct. 1 game in Death Val­ley as a threat to run away with the Heis­man, but losses to Hous­ton and Ken­tucky, when he com­mit­ted four turnovers, in late Novem­ber pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for oth­ers to sway vot­ers.

Wat­son made the big­gest surge, but ul­ti­mately fell short.

Jack­son con­tin­ues a re­cent trend of break­out stars win­ning the Heis­man. He is the sixth player to win the award as ei­ther a red­shirt fresh­man or sopho­more, all since 2007, join­ing Manziel (red­shirt fresh­man), Win­ston (red­shirt fresh­man), Mark In­gram (sopho­more), Sam Brad­ford (sopho­more) and Tim Te­bow (sopho­more).

Louisville quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son poses with the Heis­man Tro­phy on Satur­day af­ter be­ing named the 82nd re­cip­i­ent. Todd Van Ernst, Getty Im­ages

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