About to enter just the third year in his NFL career, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has already become one of the biggest superstars in the sport. The reigning NFL Most Valuable Player is fun to watch and is likely to get even better in the coming years. What a scary thought for opposing defenses!
The draft is a part of your NFL story and you had people like Bill Polian suggesting you should become a wide receiver. Or people suggesting you should become a running back. Given what you did in college winning the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback, did you find it insulting and what was that process like?
Prior to the draft, I was hearing, 'Oh, he should be a top five pick.' That was all I was seeing as I declared for the draft. A couple of weeks later, people were saying I was a running back. I was like, 'What the hell! Where is all this coming from?' I just wanted to prove them wrong because people had always doubted me, even as a little kid. When it was time for the NFL Combine, one of the assistants from the Chargers said to me, 'Lamar, you're going out there at quarterback and receiver.' I told them I wasn't doing that and they could take me off their list. They did it again the next day and it was getting on my nerves. When the Ravens picked me at 32, I knew they believed in me. I visited Cleveland, Cincinnati, New England, New Orleans… I felt like Baltimore was the best place for me. I didn't want to go anywhere else. But as that draft unfolded, I was thinking, 'Man I got this green suit from Gucci for no reason. I should have stayed at home.' It was relief and a dream come true to get picked. Everybody who passed on me, I was going to make them pay.
What is it like to play for John Harbaugh?
Ah, coach Harbaugh. He says stuff to me where he knows I'm going to go out there and prove different. In my rookie season, he was coming up to me and saying, 'Man, they were wrong about you.' I would say, 'What do you mean?' And he would say, 'They were all saying you were inaccurate.' It's stuff like that where he knows its going to tick me off – he knows the right thing to say and I like that about him. He's a competitive coach and he doesn't like to lose at anything. He tries to compete with us in the weight room and I'm like, 'What is going on? We don't have to compete with you. You're our coach.' But I love that. He is really cool.
Is the way you run the football a backyard style or are you thinking as you run downfield?
I have always been able to run and I was always fast. In touch football you're playing on concrete in the street and I was always good at missing people. When I put on pads it's the same – don't get touched and don't get hit. I'm trying to get a first down and I'm trying to score a touchdown. When I do decide to run, I'm running to make a play, not to get two yards or to get touched. It's me against that defender and sometimes I win that battle. And if defenders start talking trash and try to get in my head, I just remember who said it and go from there.
For Neil's full interview with Lamar Jackson check out 'The Neil Reynolds Podcast' which runs weekly through the 2020 NFL season.