Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman winner who, for a while, appeared to be the Second Coming, is heading into the fall with the typical pressure being applied to college football’s reigning MVP—he’ll be tasked with somehow improving his draft stock, bettering a team that fell apart down the stretch, and becoming the second repeat Heisman winner in history. That doesn’t mean he can’t spare a moment to be petty, though.
Last season’s brief but glorious WakeyLeaks scandal—Wake Forest radio announcer Tommy Elrod was caught passing on game plan materials to Louisville co-offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, among others—ended eight months ago with Elrod’s axing and Galloway’s bowl game suspension, but the involved programs have not been quick to forget. After all, while Virginia Tech and Army also benefitted from Elrod’s treachery, it was on the Louisville sidelines that Demon Deacons coaches first realized they had a mole inside the program. (The Cardinals used a strong second half to demolish their visitors 44-12.)
Just three weeks after WakeyLeaks faded from the list of national storylines, Sports Illustrated ran an article in which a coach, speaking anonymously, said that Jackson has “no shot” at a professional career, citing his throwing capabilities, his pocket presence, and his inability to analyze a defense. The article was one of the many end-of-season pieces in which friendly veteran reporters get coaches to offer their unfiltered opinions, with the promise of anonymity being the trade-off for the juicy soundbites.
“Watson has a chance to be at least as good as Winston,” he said. “We played he and Lamar Jackson, and Jackson has no shot at playing quarterback in the NFL. None. He can’t make the throws and can’t read coverages. He’s not going to have a chance. Watson stands tall in the pocket and whips the ball around like Ben Roethlisberger.”
The analysis seems a bit harsh and premature considering 1) it’s concerning, you know, the reigning Heisman trophy winner that did this to Florida State and 2) Jackson still has another full season to play and sort out his loose in-pocket ball control before he sets his sights on the draft.
The piece was published eight months ago, but the line about his NFL future apparently stuck in Jackson’s craw. When speaking with the Louisville Courier-Journal on Sunday, the junior was blunt when asked about the comments, saying he believed Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson was behind them; he also reiterated that Clawson is in fact not the Father and therefore doesn’t know what his future will hold.
“Yeah, I heard Wake Forest. I heard (it was) the Wake Forest coach,” Jackson said Saturday during U of L’s media day. “But we won, so I don’t really care.”
“I’m in college still,” Jackson said Saturday in response. “He can’t judge the future. God could. Not him. He’s not God. So I’m not worried.”
Per Scout, Clawson responded to Jackson’s comments on Monday when speaking with reports after practice, categorizing them as “fake news” and claiming that he believes Jackson is one of the nation’s top talents. Clawson did not, however, say whether he believes Jackson has an NFL future.
“I never said those things. I have great respect for Lamar Jackson as a football player,” Clawson said. “I think he is one of the elite players not only in the ACC, but in the country. I respect the way he plays the quarterback position, and those comments in no way reflect the respect I have for him. I would never say that.”
I never thought I’d circle a Demon Deacons game on my calendar, but a pissed-off Lamar Jackson is must-see TV—the Oct. 29 Louisville-Wake Forest throwdown has my full attention.