If Lamar Jackson really wanted to, he’s pretty sure he could fly.

“I feel like I can do anything under the sun,” Jackson told The Baltimore Banner this week. “Probably can fly, I just don’t know yet.”

Jackson, on the cusp of leading the Ravens into a divisional-round playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium against the Texans at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, speaks like this, and has done so since arriving in Baltimore. Confidence has never been an issue. Even when, at times, what he says defies logic.

The thing is, plenty of his teammates say they believe him.

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“[I’d say], ‘Shit, take me around the world. Take me with you,’” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “I wouldn’t doubt him.”

Wide receiver Zay Flowers might be among his doubters (he said if he can’t fly, then Jackson can’t, either), but he described the way kids from South Florida look at Jackson by saying he’s a “superhero.”

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs with the ball during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023.
Jackson had 3,678 yards passing and 821 yards rushing this season, with a combined 29 touchdowns. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

That’s how deep the confidence in Jackson’s magic runs, both through his teammates and himself. His boldness, as well as immense talent and on-field results, is what allowed Jackson to ignore the doubters when it comes to his playing style and revolutionize the way the quarterback position is viewed.

However, the one area where he has not had the results is the postseason, giving more fodder to his detractors. He’s 1-1 in the wild-card round and 0-2 in the divisional round. That’s why, despite already having won a regular-season MVP award with a second probably on the way, he’s still focused on more. He wants that Super Bowl. And his teammates believe he can get it this year.

Never boastful

The stage was set: Christmas night. On the road against the San Francisco 49ers. Game of the year.

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The Ravens suffocated San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy, forcing four interceptions and likely costing the 24-year-old his chance at the MVP. He was relieved by Sam Darnold, who threw another pick.

On the other side, Jackson put on a master class, leading seven straight scoring drives in a 33-19 win. He went 23-for-35 for 252 yards and two touchdowns, adding seven carries for 45 yards, including a crucial 30-yard run to set up a field goal at the end of the first half.

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During his postgame press conference, Ravens coach John Harbaugh made the case for Jackson to claim the league’s top honor.

“I thought Lamar had an MVP performance tonight,” he said. “It takes a team to create a performance like that, but it takes a player to play at that level, to play at an MVP level. It takes a player to play that way. And Lamar was all over the field doing everything.”

When asked his thoughts on his coach’s assessment and invocation of the three-letter acronym that would follow him around for the remainder of the regular season, Jackson looked to the spirit of the season.

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“We got the dub. I don’t really care about the performance. I just wanted to win. That’s what happened tonight. On Christmas, that was my gift,” he said. “They asked me at a interview a couple weeks ago, like, what would I want for Christmas. And my wish got granted.”

The response was typical Jackson. For all his supernatural ability to elude would-be tacklers and create opportunities for the offense out of thin air, the 27-year-old is rarely boastful about his unique gifts and instead focuses on the ultimate team goal: winning.

As obvious as it is to anyone with two eyes that Jackson is the high-powered engine that keeps the Ravens moving, he is quick to deflect praise to his teammates on the offense, defense and special teams, and the coaching staff.

He’s unfailingly nice at press conferences, sometimes referring to reporters he knows by name as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” But also circumspect, falling on clichés and clipped responses to reveal little of his thoughts or himself.

This all belies what teammates say is Jackson’s unwavering confidence in his talents and ability to lead. Perhaps nothing spoke to that belief in himself more than his offseason contract talks, when he handled his own negotiations and stood firm, even at one point releasing a trade demand just as Harbaugh was set to meet the media.

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He believed in himself and, despite a chorus of people shouting about how foolish his tactics were, went his way, as he says he always has.

And he got the deal. Sticking with his convictions has, much more often than not, worked out the way Jackson hoped, dating back to the first days he held a football.

‘How I play ball’

Jackson has made a career (he’s earned $112,774,549 in six years) and built his fame (he has 3.3 million followers on Instagram and another 1.1 million on X) playing football. But, when he was a child, watching football was on the bottom of his to-do list.

“My father used to come in the house and put football on. I’d tell him, ‘Turn it off! I want to watch cartoons!’” Jackson recalled.

He might not have watched it, but he played it — because everyone in South Florida plays football. They “breed” football players, and attending games, from high school down to pee-wee, is a common family activity.

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“That’s one of the first things you do,” Jackson said.

However, Jackson began by playing in the backyard with friends. His cousin happened upon a pickup game and saw Jackson throw a ball. He decided he needed Jackson on his team, so Jackson sent him to his parents for permission.

Ravens fans could forward his cousin a thank you note if they want, Jackson said, but he’s positive, if his cousin hadn’t gotten him into it, someone else would have.

When he started with the Pompano Eagles at age 8, he knew he wanted to play quarterback. The reason is not complicated. It was the position where he knew he could make the most difference.

“I get to have the ball every play,” Jackson said. “I feel like the ball is in my hands, we can be going in the right direction. We have the chance to put points on the board. Stuff like that, just to put my team in the best situation.”

Jackson delivers a pass as he is hit by Cleveland Browns linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. during a game in November. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

Although he now played organized football, Jackson never lost the improvisation that comes with backyard football. He also never thought he played the position that differently, because most quarterbacks play that way in South Florida, he said.

Jackson said he never heard that he didn’t fit the mold of a traditional quarterback until he started looking at a career in the NFL. Because he didn’t watch the game on television, what he knew was what he saw. When he attended the NFL combine, multiple teams wanted to see him work out at wide receiver. He refused.

By that point, Jackson had plenty of success to back him up.

In 2008, his youth league team won a Super Bowl, igniting his passion for the game. In 2013, his high school squad lost to now-teammate Dalvin Cook’s Miami Central. But Jackson dominated against the No. 3 team. In fact, Cook said, “he was the team.”

In 2013, Jackson also went viral when he finished a scramble toward the end zone by stopping abruptly at the goal line, causing a defender lowering his shoulder to miss him completely. He walked in for the score. His Ravens teammates remember that clip, even if they didn’t know who he was at the time.

Although he wasn’t a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, he enrolled at Louisville in 2015 and made eight starts as a freshman. His sophomore year, he won the Heisman Trophy.

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“Me seeing him in high school to him going to Louisville, just making the jump at every level and transitioning, I told myself, ‘They’re going to have to adjust the [NFL] game to him,’” Cook said. “The style of play’s going to have to be different when he’s in the game.”

So, no, Jackson wasn’t going to play anything but quarterback. And, no, he never had a moment of self-doubt.

Jackson looks for wide receiver Rashod Bateman as Los Angeles Rams linebacker Byron Young brings him down. (Kylie Cooper/The Baltimore Banner)

“I’m pretty much my own man, my own guy,” Jackson said. “I pretty much just go with the flow, and I just do my thing. What I feel is right for me, I just go with that.”

The Ravens knew that when they drafted him, Harbaugh recently explained on “The Adam Schefter Podcast.”

“We built our offense around him; we built our whole team around him,” Harbaugh said. “We said, ‘We are going to go in a direction that nobody has ever gone before football-wise.’”

Jackson did his own thing, and he did it so well that the league has changed to fit him.

“We would call it a revolution, we said it was going to be a revolution football-wise, and it has been,” Harbaugh said. “People are running offenses now, and plays now, that they hadn’t run before that. They hadn’t even thought about running them before that. They see things differently.”

And Jackson appreciates the doubters because they have fueled his journey.

“You done heard plenty of things about you,” Jackson said. “Like, ‘that’s not true.’ All right. So now I’m going to make you pay. That’s pretty much how I play ball.”

‘It starts with us’

Ever since he won that youth league Super Bowl in 2008, Jackson has had a well-documented obsession with getting another one.

He failed at winning the high school championship. He failed at winning a national title in college. At the NFL draft, he promised the Ravens a Super Bowl ring.

His obsession has never wavered. Yet this year is different.

Jackson has mentioned the Super Bowl over and over in news conferences since returning for the season, and he said in early December that he’s been preaching about it in the locker room. Jackson’s teammates and coaches have noticed the change, from his preparation to his leadership to his command of the game. Multiple times throughout the season, Harbaugh has had to correct himself, saying he thought the previous week was Jackson’s best performance but the most recent game now takes the top spot.

“I could give Lamar Jackson our game ball every single game,” Harbaugh said in December. “He wouldn’t take them. He wouldn’t have anywhere to put them in his house.”

Jackson said the increased focus on the Super Bowl isn’t because of the change in him but the change in the Ravens.

“I can say I’m a vet now,” Jackson said. “And I can say I’ve been around. And we’ve had different teams each of the years I’ve been here. And I feel like now we have one of the most complete teams since I’ve been here.”

They have what they need, Jackson said, but “it starts with us.” So the player who once asked his dad to turn the NFL off now studies film closely, starting when quarterbacks coach Tee Martin drops a scouting report in his locker at the conclusion of each game.

When people have doubted, Jackson has dealt the best opponents their worst losses. Tight end Charlie Kolar realized the depth of Jackson’s desire for that ring on the sidelines of the 49ers game, what many predicted to be the Super Bowl preview.

“He was yelling at the offense when we’re up like 21 points to San Francisco to lock back in because we were being too loose,” Kolar said.

He’s not afraid to hold people accountable, cornerback Marlon Humphrey said.

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But he’s also still the goofy Lamar he’s always been, and his teammates love him for it. He’s the guy who’s making fun of Kolar when he trips over his own feet, who’s yelling in weird voices at Justice Hill late at night at Target, who’s in the back of the plane on the return from London discussing conspiracy theories with Jordan Stout. He’s the guy who tweeted “Johnny” in response to a random account, which Kyle Hamilton said is the best representation of how ridiculous he can be.

It puts people at ease and draws everyone in. Cook, who only joined the Ravens for the postseason, said he felt the bond in the locker room as soon as he walked in. That camaraderie can hide just how much of a threat Jackson is.

“They don’t see the brilliance and how smart he is and how good of a leader he is,” Kolar said.

Despite all the changes, Jackson has always remained the same Lamar — with the wit and the refusal to lose his accent — since Cook knew him in high school.

And he’ll still be the same Lamar at the end of this season. He’ll just hopefully be Lamar with a Super Bowl ring on his finger.

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