Lamar Jackson has the words of a Bible verse tattooed on his right biceps, but he doesn’t know what it says.
He contorted his body to read it Friday, a day before learning if he’ll win the Heisman Trophy, but the cursive is difficult to make out from his vantage point. “That’s my mom’s favorite scripture,” the Louisville quarterback explained. “I had to get it, in honor of her.”
For the record, Felicia Jones’ favorite verse — Mark 6:4 — reads that a prophet is without honor in his own home. It doesn’t quite apply to Jackson, who’s had plenty of accolades from his hometown in Florida and across the nation, but it is a testament to his devotion to his mother. She’s the one who got him into football, she was the first one to train him, she was the only parent to raise him, and Saturday night in midtown Manhattan, she’ll find out if her son becomes the youngest player to win the Heisman.
Jackson, a sophomore, is 19 years old, still has braces along his bottom teeth, and passed for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns with Louisville this season, with another 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. He, along with surging Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, are the favorites to win the award (Watson was not available to the media Friday).
And during Thursday’s College Football Awards, this race came into stark relief: Jackson was named winner of the Maxwell Award, given to the best player in the country, and Watson won the O’Brien Award, given to the best quarterback.
Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook, Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, and Michigan’s utility knife and defensive force Jabrill Peppers round out the finalists.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think I should win,” Peppers said Friday. “I think there’s a lot more guys here who are more qualified, but I think my skill set and all the phases that I helped my team” recommend him. “Just to be with the likes of the guys that are here, it’s definitely a tremendous honor.”
Peppers, a sophomore, played on offense, defense and special teams, in a host of positions. He had 72 total tackles with 16 for a loss, four sacks, an interception, and 751 all-purpose yards. Westbrook and Mayfield, meanwhile, anchored that powerful Oklahoma offense — Westbrook caught 16 TD passes and had 1,465 receiving yards, and Mayfield threw for 38 touchdowns and rushed for six.
Watson, a junior, finished third in last year’s Heisman vote. This year, he passed for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns and added six rushing touchdowns and 526 yards. He led Clemson to the College Football Playoff for the second year in a row, and had a strong finish, something that could give him the nod over Jackson, the presumed favorite. Jackson had a weaker schedule, and stumbled in the final two games of the year, against Houston and Kentucky.
And though it’s been Jackson’s honor to lose all year, he said he would be OK if another name is called at the Times Square Marriott Marquis. For now, this weekend has brought different delights. He hasn’t spent much time with his mother in seven months, he said, and she was in Manhattan and will be in the audience Saturday.
“Just having time to bond with my mother is great right now,” he said. “I hope [to win]. I won’t say I don’t want to. I’d love to.”