It was October 17, 2015. I can’t remember exactly where I was when I saw it. All I know is that the last time my eyeballs popped out of my head like that, I was 14 years old watching Apollonia purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka in the movie “Purple Rain.”

I instinctively knew, after what I just watched, that there was no going back.

I didn’t know this kid from a can of paint before kickoff, but from that day forward I’d never miss a chance to see him play.

His name was Lamar Demeatrice Jackson, the angular, sinewy 18-year-old freshman out of Pompano Beach, Florida who was the starting quarterback for the University of Louisville. That day, after watching him work his magic, I renamed him Lamar “Action” Jackson on the spot.

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The world would catch on later.

I’m a football junkie.

Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings in the fall are my happy place, my jubilant space.

I begged mom to sign me up for the local Pop Warner football program when I was 7 years old. Even at an early age, athletics beckoned. It was something about the disciplined choreography, the teamwork and the camaraderie. And it wasn’t just football. It was basketball, baseball, track and field. Whatever sport was in season, I played it.

Those early football teams set the foundation for me personally, from acquiring a work ethic, establishing new friendships that would span a lifetime, to fostering a competitive fire that screamed at me to win every practice drill, every game.

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That October Saturday afternoon in 2015, I was hyped for the 3:30 p.m. game, Alabama vs. Texas A&M. That ‘Bama squad would go on to win the national championship, propelled by Derrick Henry’s 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.

Tuning in to see Florida State vs. Louisville at noon was simply the appetizer. The Ville came into that game unranked with a record of 2-3. The Seminoles were a top-20 team with an electrifying sophomore running back named Dalvin Cook.

But when I witnessed Lamar pass for 307 yards and three touchdowns against that formidable FSU defense, he immediately supplanted Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott as my favorite college player to watch that season.

The cat was officially out of the bag after he threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 226 yards and two more scores, all while Texas A&M’s defensive menace Myles Garrett was looking to decapitate him in Louisville’s season-ending win in the Music City Bowl.

During the 2016 season, Lamar became the youngest player ever, at just 19 years old, to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy.

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Do you recall the absurdity of his excellence that year? The kid accounted for eight touchdowns in the first half against Charlotte in the opening game and followed that up with 411 passing yards and another 199 rushing against Syracuse. Against Clemson, the eventual national champion, he ran for 162 yards and added 295 yards through the air.

His 4,928 yards of total offense, 51 rushing and passing touchdowns and 1,538 rushing yards constituted one of the most impressive individual statistical seasons in college football history.

Casual Ravens fans might not fully understand how brilliant he was in college, but they became enamored during his second NFL season in 2019, when he was the unanimous selection as league MVP.

Football fever is soon to return, with NFL training camps already underway. In lieu of that, some folks need to be reminded, and not be blinded by last year’s disappointing 8-9 finish, where the Ravens lost their last six games in a row.

That shouldn’t diminish how fortunate we’ve been over the last few years here in Baltimore. Right now, we’re witnessing the most incredible offensive weapon this town has seen since another University of Louisville product, Johnny Unitas, lit the town on fire in the late 1950s and on through the ’60s.

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With that being said, here are my favorite Lamar “Action” Jackson moments during his first four years with the Ravens.

First game as a starter

As a rookie against the Bengals, in his first game as a starter in week 11, with the team reeling after a three-game losing streak, Lamar completed 68% of his passes for 150 yards while rushing for another 119 in the Ravens’ 24-21 win. Later that year, he became the youngest quarterback to start an NFL playoff game.

Obliteration of Miami Dolphins

In the 2019 season opener, he foreshadowed his eventual MVP campaign by completing 17 of his 20 pass attempts for 324 yards and five touchdowns in the Ravens’ 59-10 obliteration of the Miami Dolphins.

Earl ‘The Pearl’ spin move

“He is Houdini!” Listening to announcer Kevin Harlan losing his mind after Lamar dropped his Earl “The Pearl” Monroe spin move and 47-yard touchdown run on the Bengals in early November is always worth revisiting. The move was so vicious that no one even remembers that he completed 88% of his passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens’ 49-13 win.

Five touchdowns in MNF debut

In his Monday Night Football debut against the Rams, he had a 75% completion percentage, tossed five touchdown passes and averaged 12 yards per carry while rushing for 95 yards. Can you name all of the quarterbacks who threw five TDs in their MNF debut? In over 50 years and some 700 games of the broadcast franchise, that list is comprised of one person. Lamar Jackson!

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Breaking Michael Vick’s rushing record

The Ravens clinched the 2019 AFC North title thanks to Lamar’s 212 passing yards and five touchdowns. Oh, and his 86 yards on the ground pushed him past Michael Vick’s NFL single-season rushing record for a quarterback.

Youngest quarterback to start in a Pro Bowl

Jackson became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to start a Pro Bowl game in 2020. He threw two touchdown passes and was named the game’s MVP.

First NFL Player to throw for 300-plus and rush for 100-plus in a playoff game

Despite the 28-12 loss to the Titans in the 2019 divisional round after an incredible 14-2 season, the second-year pro still dazzled, accounting for over 500 yards of total offense. He became the first player in NFL history to throw for 300-plus yards and rush for 100-plus yards in a playoff game.

2020 playoffs against Titans

Jackson got his revenge in the 2020 playoffs against the Titans, throwing for 179 yards and rushing for 136 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens’ 20-13 win.

Throwing for a franchise record

In week 5 of the 2021 season, Lamar had his career-defining performance to this point, throwing for a franchise record 442 yards and four touchdowns. The Ravens erased a 19-point second half deficit against the Indianapolis Colts to win in overtime, 31-25. He also ran for 62 yards in what head coach John Harbaugh called one of the greatest performances he’d ever seen.

alejandro.danois@thebaltimorebanner.com

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Alejandro Danois was a sports writer for The Banner. He specializes in long-form storytelling, looking at society through the prism of sports and its larger connections with the greater cultural milieu. The author of The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, he is also a film producer and cultural critic.

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