NEW YORK — Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson became the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner Saturday night, beating a crowded field of five finalists to take home college football’s greatest individual honor.
He is also the youngest player to win the Heisman, edging out 2013’s winner, redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, by a matter of days.
Jackson accounted for 51 touchdowns this year, finishing the regular season with 3,390 passing yards and 1,538 rushing yards. The 19-year-old averaged 410 total yards per game this year.
"I never get emotional, but to hear my name with all of the great players ... " Jackson said. "My heart started racing. When I heard them say my name, well, I just thanked God.”
Final Heisman voting totals: pic.twitter.com/mkFnw6M87j— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) December 11, 2016
Jackson’s on-stage acceptance speech alternated between awe — “This is crazy!” — and nervousness, as he made sure he thanked his coaches and dedicated the award to his mother.
PHOTOS: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson wins Heisman Trophy
Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said afterward hearing Jackson’s name called was “a relief.” Petrino knew his quarterback had played well enough and taken over enough games to win the award; he just didn’t know for sure it would happen until it actually happened.
It wasn’t all that close, either.
The vote tally, with points in parentheses: Jackson (2,144), Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (1.534), Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (361), Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook (209) and Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers (208).
Jackson had 326 first-place votes and appeared on 90.53% of all ballots. Watson was the runner-up for the second year in a row. Jackson finished first in each of the six Heisman geographic regions Watson finished second in each region. Overall, 48 different players received votes.
Jackson was so dominant so early in the season that he almost locked up the award by the time the seasons switched from summer to fall. He became the Heisman front-runner by the end of Week 3 when Louisville thrashed then-No. 2 Florida State 63-20 behind Jackson’s five touchdowns.
Despite struggling during his final two games of the year — a lopsided loss to Houston, and then turning the ball over four times to fall to in-state rival Kentucky — Jackson was able to pile up such jaw-dropping numbers and such a Heisman cushion, those results did not sink him.
Jackson becomes the sixth player who was either a redshirt freshman or a sophomore when he won the Heisman. All six have won the award since 2007, when Tim Tebow did it.
Watson, the runner-up, said he was glad Jackson was representing their league, the Atlantic Coast Conference, so well.
“He’s such a great athlete — everyone knows that,” Watson said earlier Saturday night. “But it’s not just that. The person he is, the leadership he brings to the table — he makes everyone around him better.
“It’s been fun to watch him this season, and it’ll be fun to watch him grow in the coming years.”
Peppers, the only defensive player to be named a Heisman finalist, said he personally didn’t think Jackson got enough credit as a passer. Fans and pundits often pointed to his speed and athleticism; Peppers instead hyped Jackson’s laser arm. From last season to now, Jackson improved his completion percentage by nearly three points this season, more than doubled his touchdown tosses and also increased his yards per attempt by 1.42.
After the ceremony, Petrino praised his star quarterback for his development as a passer. He said he’d known ever since recruiting Jackson that the dual-threat quarterback could become a great player because of his spectacular athleticism. But it wasn’t until he saw the way Jackson committed to studying film, learning the playbook and working on improving the accuracy of his vertical passing game — all aspects of a player’s game that take place out of the spotlight, often behind closed doors — that Petrino watched potential turn into reality.
And that reality, as it turns out, includes a quite-famous stiff arm.
Jackson, a sophomore, is ineligible to declare early for the NFL draft until the end of next season. He will become the 10th player to return to school after winning a Heisman since Archie Griffin went back-to-back in 1974 and 1975. No one else has won two.
Jackson will return to action when Louisville faces LSU in the Citrus Bowl, on Dec. 31.
“I’ll bet everything I own that that guy will work hard to be an even better player next year,” Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said. “He is not going to rest on his laurels."
The top vote-getters:
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville: 526-251-64 = 2,144
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson: 269-302-113 + 1,524
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: 26-72-139 = 361
4. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma: 7-49-90 = 209
5. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan: 11-45-85 = 208
6. Jake Browning, Washington: 3-41-91 = 182
7. Jonathan Allen, Alabama: 17-21-39 = 132
8. D'Onta Foreman, Texas: 6-21-71 = 131
9. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford: 10-17-39 = 103
T-10. Dalvin Cook, Florida State: 3-15-28 = 67
T-10. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St.: 4-12-31 = 67
Regional points breakdown of the top three finalists:
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville, 318.
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson, 266.
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, 57.
1. Jackson, 350.
2. Watson, 274.
3. Peppers, 50.
1. Jackson, 388.
2. Watson, 267.
3. Mayfield, 58.
1. Jackson, 360.
2. Watson, 215.
3. Mayfield, 96.
1. Jackson, 363.
2. Watson, 269.
3. Mayfield, 64.
1. Jackson, 365.
2. Watson, 233.
3. Jake Browning, Washington, 41.