CRAWFORD | Lamar Jackson named a Hesiman Trophy finalist -- U of - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Lamar Jackson named a Hesiman Trophy finalist -- U of L's first

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Lamar Jackson speaks to reporters at ACC Media Day in August. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Lamar Jackson speaks to reporters at ACC Media Day in August. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In this case, it really is an honor just to be nominated.

Usually those words are lip service, but when Lamar Jackson's name was among those announced to be invited to New York City for this Saturday's Heisman Trophy ceremony, it was an historic moment for the University of Louisville, which has never had a player among the award's finalists.

And it was a historic day for the city of Louisville, which has had only one connection to what likely is the most famous award in college sports -- Louisville native Paul Hornung from Notre Dame, who won the award in 1955 -- among the finalists.

The Heisman Trophy has been presented annually since 1937 by New York's Downtown Athletic Club to the most outstanding player in college football.

CRAWFORD COLUMN | Lamar Jackson for Heisman

The highest any player from a Kentucky school has finished in Heisman balloting was University of Kentucky quarterback Babe Parelli, who was third in 1951. UK has had three players finish in the top five of the balloting, the last Tim Couch, who was fourth in the balloting in 1998.

But Jackson has a chance to do something even more impressive. He has a chance to win. The Las Vegas odds were 1-50 for Jackson to win the award on Monday morning. At least one online sportsbook, Bovada.lv, took Jackson off the board a couple of weeks ago because he was so prohibitive a favorite.

This season Jackson became the first major college quarterback ever to throw for 30 touchdowns and run for 20 during the regular season. Tim Tebow did it during the 2007 and Cam Newton in 2010, and both won the Heisman, but both needed postseason games to amass those numbers.

“I’m extremely humbled and honored,” Jackson said. “This is a great honor for me, but it goes to my teammates too. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to be successful and I share this with them."

For Louisville, Jackson's emergence this past season not only meant a playoff bid that lasted until the next-to-last game of the season, but a great deal of exposure. For the school, having a Heisman trophy winner would put it into an important class of programs.

"I am very pleased for Lamar, our program and the University of Louisville,” Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said in a statement from the school. “The effect Lamar has had on our program is unparalleled. He is a great competitor who has used his abilities and strengths to become the best player in the nation, in my opinion. A year ago, he was put into the first game of the season and since then his attitude and preparation have allowed him to continue to grow and mature into a dynamic playmaker and a confident leader. This season, he stands apart and I congratulate him on the work he has done."

Jackson also is the first player in major college history to rush for 1,500 and pass for 3,300 in a single season. When he passed for 411 yards and ran for 199 In a win at Syracuse in September, he became the first major college player to run for at least 175 and pass for at least 400 in a single game.

He accounted for seven touchdowns in the season-opener against Charlotte and had eight in a victory at Marshall. No major college player has ever had multiple 7-TD games.

Jackson punctuated his unprecedented stats with memorable moments. He leaped a defender at Syracuse. He took command of the Heisman race with a dodging, spinning 47-yard touchdown run in a 63-20 win over Florida State. He engineered an 8-play, 75 yard drive in 1:44 to win a game at Virginia. Against N.C. State, photographer Jamie Rhodes even caught Jackson in a perfect Heisman pose during a second-half run against the Wolfpack.

Other finalists for the Heisman that have been invited to New York are Oklahoma junior quarterback Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma wideout Dede Westbrook, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Michigan safety Jabril Peppers.

CRAWFORD | Jackson adjusts to life in the spotlight

The award, however, has been Jackson's to lose all season. Now, he's officially within range of grasping it.

The Heisman ceremony will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday night on ESPN. WDRB will be in New York for Jackson's arrival, through the Heisman ceremony on Saturday. Watch WDRB News and WDRB.com for more coverage.

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