BOZICH | Senseless violence shouldn't overshadow Lamar Jackson's Heisman triumph
Lamar Jackson's remarkable Heisman Trophy victory should be a time of civic celebration but the joy was interrupted by more senseless shootings.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Lamar Jackson made certain that he credited his University of Louisville teammates every time he was asked about the joy of being a candidate and then the winner of the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
Jackson did that from the moment he arrived in New York City Friday. He sprinkled the names of several teammates into his interviews, building the family dynamic around his stirring achievement.
This was not Jackson’s award. This was the University of Louisville’s award.
Sincere. Emotional. Unforgettable. Perfect.
He won it the way you want a teammate to win it — with humility and grace. Jackson credited Jesus Christ, his family, teammates, mentors and coaches.
I heard a mention of halfback Brandon Radcliff. Some love for Cole Hikutini, his tight end. And a nod to James Hearns, Jackson’s fellow Floridian and a leader on the Cardinals’ defense.
It wasn’t even time to sweep up the confetti when the local Heisman celebration was canceled by the harsh and expanding reality of current culture:
Multiple sources said two of Jackson’s football teammates — Hearns and linebacker Henry Famurewa — were shot at an apartment complex near campus early Sunday morning. Another person, not a football player, was also reportedly shot. Hearns' high school coach, Yusif Shakir, told the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper that Hearns was not in the elbow but was "doing fine." (Link to that story.)
In New York, Jackson joked that his teammates teased him that he would cry if he won the most prestigious trophy a college football player can win.
This, the shooting of three fellow students, is something to cry about. It was the talk of practice when the U of L players gathered Sunday morning without Jackson or head coach Bobby Petrino, who was also in New York City.
U of L senior associate athletic director for media relations Kenny Klein said in a text message Sunday afternoon that he had no information on the incident.
Details will arrive. Details always arrive.
The injuries are reportedly not life-threatening. They are also something that many of us do not understand — the unflinching need to shoot somebody, regardless of the motivation. Why?
Until the facts emerge and stories are corroborated, we’re apparently left with a picture that is an unsettling reminder of what’s going on today:
Even the most uplifting individual football moment in local football history is not immune to the senseless urge to injure somebody, often with a gun. A program high can be shoved out of the news cycle by a community clash. Just like that.
Books have been written and films have been produced of how we have tumbled to this point.
It’s sad that it happened. But what’s sadder is that it is hardly surprising that it happened.
This followed the Friday night shooting at the McDonald’s several furlongs from Churchill Downs, which followed the Thanksgiving Day Juice Bowl horror at Shawnee Park, which followed dozens of other blowups across the metro area.
How many shootings in the area this year? Too many.
Will this be the one that inspires more of us to find ways to make it stop?
Understand, please, that I am not saying this is a Louisville football problem. This is not a metropolitan Louisville problem. This is not a Kentuckiana problem.
This is simply a problem — a society problem, one that stings more than usual today because three vibrant U of L students have been needlessly injured.
A moment that should have served as a unifying call for civic pride has been twisted into another chilling police report of how unsafe these times have become.
Jackson’s joy and celebration should not have come with an expiration date of less than 12 hours. I don’t think Jackson will let that happen. One reason he earned all those Heisman votes is that the kid understands how to lead.
Don’t expect Lamar Jackson to give in to the anger. He’s the kind of kid who will use his trophy and his platform to sell possibility, not giving in when tragedy tries to pull you down from behind.
Jackson winning the Heisman should serve as an inspiring reminder of what a young man can achieve with direction and support from his family, friends and coaches.
His life was tough. His sufferings were real. His journey was inspiring. People around the program will tell you that Jackson is a solid, determined kid who will represent U of L as well as Teddy Bridgewater has.
I’m certain Jackson will be eager to share his story while encouraging young people across the area. Make something happen, don’t make a mess of three lives.
He has a chance to make a difference — and Jackson will, as best as any individual student can deliver a message of hope and persistence.
Lamar Jackson will make a difference. The rest of us need to do more to help him.
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