CRAWFORD | Lamar Jackson Heisman Snapshot: His Mother
All season, Lamar Jackson's mother, Felicia Jones, kept a very low profile. During the ESPN Heisman Trophy ceremony, she was center stage briefly for a short time.
NEW YORK (WDRB) -- We finally got to meet Felicia Jones.
Lamar Jackson's mother had been little more than a shadow and a name for most of us during Jackson's time in Louisville, whispered about in respected tones by her son, held up as his mentor and cornerstone, the one who lifted him up, and who keeps him on the ground.
More than one news organization from Louisville, including WDRB News and The Courier-Journal, went to Boynton Beach and made inquiries for her, but came back only with stories of her strength and resolve, told by others.
"She is a woman who is extremely proud of her son, extremely proud of how she's helped him develop -- and not only physically but mentally -- and she wants to have her privacy throughout this entire process," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said just before the end of the season. "She's been consistent with that, with anybody that's reached out and talked to her, that she just wants to watch her son play and have everyone respect that for her."
But at long last, during the Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night during the ESPN broadcast, there she was, at her son's side.
I'm so glad she was.
She doesn't have to be a spokesperson to have an influence. And at a time when childhood, really, has become a luxury to certain segments of our society, where violence and doing the wrong things often pass for toughness, she has written a pretty good handbook on how to navigate some difficult times.
That handbook wears No. 8 for the University of Louisville football team.
Jones, who still trains football players on Sunday in a park with Van Warren, another mentor of her son, was asked by ESPN's Chris Fowler what she sees in her son that let him accomplish so much so quickly in college football.
"I see all the hard work and dedication that he has put in," she responded. "Trusting and believing in me, first of all, has gotten us to where we are today, because it's a team effort in everything that you do."
I wrote about her in some detail in a story about how Jackson got to this point. In that story, Jackson was pretty clear, there weren't a lot of pats on the back from his mom, especially once he really started to excel at the game. In fact, it seems in a way that the better he got and more success he had, the tougher on him she got.
Asked to remember any time in what would wind up being a Heisman Trophy season when she told him he'd done a good job, he couldn't think of any.
"Any mistake I make," he said. "She's going to let me hear about it."
On his left arm is a tattoo of the Bible verse Mark 6:4. It is the words of Jesus, warning that a prophet often can find honor anywhere but his own hometown, and among his own relatives. She asked him to put that verse there. The reminder is that no matter how big a star you become, you're still you at home.
During ESPN's telecast, Jackson talked about the day his father died, in an automobile accident, and about his grandmother dying the same day.
"I lost my father at a young age, but she stepped up," Jackson said. "And I lost my grandmother the same day that I lost my father. And she told me, 'Don't cry. We're going to do better. We're going to amount to something.' And we're here now, thank God."
Later, during his Heisman acceptance speech, Jackson said, "I'll remember that for the rest of my life. So every time certain things don't go my way or this and that don't happen, I just own up to it and be a man about the situation."
I got a couple of emails the next day from parents who thought some of those things were harsh. They couldn't imagine not praising a child, or telling one who had lost a relative not to cry.
All I can say is this. A lot of us don't live in the same world Jackson grew up in, or that Jones is working to raise kids in. We don't live in a world that will chew you up if you show weakness, or even more importantly, begin to embrace it, or self pity, or despair.
Jones gave her son a hope, to go along with the challenges that faced him. But she didn't allow him to dwell on misfortune, or sadness, or his circumstances. She didn't even let him dwell on being tired, or sore.
The story now is well known. When he was knocking his smaller brothers around in the back yards, she put the pads on and told him to come at her.
I didn't feel sorry for Jackson when he talked about his mother telling him not to cry, even if I couldn't say that to any of my kids. Instead, I felt sorry for late the kids who don't have a mother like Felicia Jones, someone strong enough to instill faith and fight.
Hers isn't the only way. There are many ways to raise a child. She did it the best way she could. And watching her with her son holding the Heisman Trophy, I'd say she did it awfully well. And her example is one that people needed to see today.
As a member of the media, the best thing you can get is a parent who likes to talk. But I also have to respect one who won't. In this day and age of social media, to find someone who intentionally seeks the background despite tremendous accomplishment, is a rare and special thing.
"She's the one who helped me get here," Jackson told ESPN's Tom Rinaldi before winning the Heisman. "I just feel anything I achieve, any goals I reach, it's on her."
Asked what he plans to do with the Heisman Trophy itself, Jackson simply pointed to where she stood, in the back of the room, "That lady right there. Everybody knows that."
I'm so glad, at long last, people got to meet her.
Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.