A toe-tapping bassline thrummed from the audio system, the rhythm of which was periodically interrupted by gusts of laughter coming from Jackson’s locker, which love all of the others within the room was ringed by strings of holiday-colored lights. Which begged the query: Who is having extra enjoyable in life for the time being, the barely legal quarterback of the Ravens, or a Disney Imagineer? Lamar Demeatrice Jackson Jr., or a waterslide tester?
“Just gonna play ball,” he mentioned. “Not gonna overthink it.”
The Baltimore Ravens could or could not win a Super Bowl, however they have already got established this a lot: An NFL workforce will be nice with out being grim. They have completely damaged all of the outdated patterns and casts with their history-wrecking offense, the primary ever to common greater than 200 yards passing and 200 yards working per sport. “Street ball,” Jackson calls it. Like their lark of a quarterback, they’re without delay an embodiment of energy and but feathers on a breeze.
It’s not simply Jackson’s mixture of twirling elastic-armed passes and jolting footspeed and evasiveness that places defenders and audiences alike in a trance. There is a boy’s pleasure in the best way he performs, a freedom that has made admirers of each Drake, and actor Al Pacino. In an oral history of “Any Given Sunday” for the Ringer, Pacino mentioned, “There are occasionally these players that are inspiring because you can see the game that they play is a game.”
All of which Jackson absorbs with the harmless, bone-deep modesty of a child who simply desires to return exterior. This isn’t somebody whose head is well turned. He has but to even unpack the Heisman Trophy he gained at Louisville — “The Heisman’s still in a box,” he mentioned — and shrugged off a workforce MVP award he gained this week.
“I’m just trying to work,” he mentioned. “I want a Super Bowl. All the accolades, I’ll cherish that another time. I’m chasing something else right now.”
He is the grief and disgrace of the old-schoolers who handed him over, the 32nd participant and fifth quarterback chosen in his NFL draft class, and people who whiffed on him have to be pounding their foreheads in self-recrimination. He has led the Ravens to greater than 30 factors on 10 events this season, and when Tennessee Titans Coach Mike Vrabel was requested how he’ll attempt to gradual him down, there was a helpless pause earlier than he replied, “Other than try to tie his shoelaces together?”
Of course, none of it’s as simple because the Ravens make it look. Underneath the convenience and road ball is unimaginable self-discipline, an underrated high quality of which Coach John Harbaugh mentioned, “If it was easy, everyone would have it.”
It was not quicksilver velocity however slightly self-discipline that has allowed Jackson to develop from an inconsistent show of a rookie who fumbled thrice and threw an interception within the playoffs final yr towards the Los Angeles Chargers. “He’s made that jump, and mostly because he works hard at it,” quarterbacks coach James Urban mentioned.
He’s now a a lot sounder decision-maker who is aware of “when to give and when to pull it, when to go over the top and when to dump it down,” extensive receiver Willie Snead IV mentioned.
Jackson’s work ethic is not any shock to these on the Ravens workers who have been good sufficient to look past outdated stereotypes and see him for what he’s: not only a bodily genius however a psychological big.
“The only thing that surprises me with Lamar is almost every day, every game, he drops my jaw,” Urban says.
It’s solely simply now changing into obvious to the remainder of us that Jackson’s major weapons are usually not his arm and legs however his head and coronary heart. The Ravens noticed it from the start, beginning with retired former basic supervisor Ozzie Newsome and his successor Eric DeCosta, whose excessive appraisal of him “trickled down” to Harbaugh, based on Snead.
“Harb just bought in, and said: ‘This kid is amazing; this kid can grow. He’s a competitor, and he can lead this locker room,’ ” Snead mentioned.
One of the issues they noticed was the cussed self-belief it took for Jackson to fend off the traditional thinkers who wished him to alter positions at each step of his profession, from Pop Warner in Boynton Beach, Fla. by way of Louisville and diverse NFL groups. They noticed solely his legs and velocity, not his arm or his thoughts.
“If that’s your dream, chase it. Don’t let nobody tell you different, ’cause I ain’t let ’em tell me different,” Jackson mentioned.
That impartial will was instilled by his mom, Felicia Jones, who practices the identical herself. During the draft course of she well rejected the overtures of brokers, as a result of she understood the NFL rookie pay scale made his contract basically pre-set. It was racket to pay a fee to a stranger for nothing. “Be the head and not the tail,” she has instructed him since he was a boy. “Don’t be a follower. Be a leader.”
It’s not possible to overstate simply how a lot that strong-mindedness has imbued the Ravens. Many of them are as barely legal as he’s — 22 gamers are both rookies or within the second season – and his attitudes and habits have change into theirs.
“I’m not the greatest; I’m not the best, I just want to win,” he mentioned.
“It’s infectious, man,” tight finish Mark Andrews mentioned. “I haven’t seen anyone who is just so hell-bent on winning. It’s all he cares about. When he says all he cares about is winning a Super Bowl, he means it. That’s rubbed off on everyone in this locker room, everyone in this facility, everyone in this organization, and everyone in this city. It’s been so much fun to be around a guy who has that kind of It factor.”