At ACC media day, the Louisville quarterback said he’s not focused on repeating as the Heisman, but on winning games and a national championship.
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Lamar Jackson gave himself tangible goals to reach leading up to the 2017 season, the encore campaign after his Heisman Trophy last year.
The purpose: Staying motivated and focused on daily tasks as the hoopla swirls around the 6-foot-3 quarterback. Discussions about Jackson’s NFL future abound on local and national media platforms. And those conversations include chatter about how he could possibly top more than 5,000 total yards of offense and 51 total touchdowns.
But Jackson spent much of his summer trying to push his boundaries in the film room and weight room. He reached one goal, weighing in at 212 pounds for the start of fall practices, and he is five pounds away from his desire to bench-press 300 pounds.
“I was mad” about the bench press, Jackson said Thursday, grinning.
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Jackson, now a junior, said he can “lift a lot more” now, and that he maintained his speed, which is by far his best attribute as a dual-threat quarterback.
“I think I got faster,” he said.
Later, he put it plainly: “Each and every day I’m trying to better myself.”
Becoming a better pocket passer — Jackson completed 56.2 percent of his passes last fall — and decision-maker are Jackson’s top mental goals. Even with his eye-catching production, Jackson acknowledged on multiple occasions the need to better understand when to change plays or throw the ball away.
U of L coach Bobby Petrino has Jackson watching film of NFL stars Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and Jackson is intent on proving that he can fit his throws into tight spaces on short- and intermediate-range routes. His completion percentage inside the opponent’s 20-yard line was just 47.6 percent during the regular season.
When he watches Brady and Rodgers, Jackson sees potential for growth in several areas: Reads, run reads, throwing decisions.
“I’m just trying to perfect my craft,” Jackson said. “… I feel like I’m growing at the collegiate level.”
Nick Petrino, Bobby Petrino’s son who is the quarterbacks coach, said Jackson’s progress is clear in practice. On Thursday, after the fourth practice of fall camp, Nick Petrino raved about Jackson’s command and vision during a blitz drill.
The coach didn’t once have to tell Jackson what their contingency plans were when the defenses showed a blitz look before the snap.
“He’s come a (long way) on that side of the game,” Nick Petrino said. “Obviously his athletic skills are top-notch, but on the mental side, he’s really improved. It’s showing out there.”
Jackson was asked for his reaction to a recent ESPN list of the top five players in college football that didn’t include him, the reigning Heisman winner.
“I wasn’t on the list last year, either,” Jackson said. “I just play football.”
Instead, he explained, film-room and weight-room goals motivate him. That and the lingering feeling that he and his teammates ended last season with a bad taste in their mouths.
“The way the season ended last year, I felt we let our fans down,” he said. “We should’ve won more games.”
Media days began for the Atlantic Coast Conference with Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher calling the ACC “the premier conference in college football.”
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