Gridiron Greats PRO FOO TBA L L’ S BES T PL AY ERS

by Greg Cavanaugh

Gridiron Greats PRO FOO TBA L L’ S BES T PL AY ERS

Aaron Rodgers Christian McCaffrey Lamar Jackson Patrick Mahomes

Aaron Donald Alvin Kamara Antonio Brown DrewBrees

Khalil Mack

Odell Beckham Jr Rob Gronkowski RussellWilson

J.J. Watt Julio Jones

Todd Gurley Von Miller

Gridiron Greats PRO FOO TBA L L’ S BES T PL AY ERS

by Greg Cavanaugh


Mason Crest PO Box 221876 Hollywood, FL 33022 (866) MCP-BOOK (toll-free) www.masoncrest.com

Copyright © 2023 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher. First printing 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4609-2

ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4603-0 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7209-1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Cavanaugh, Greg, author. Title: Lamar Jackson / Greg Cavanaugh. Description: Hollywood, Florida : Mason Crest, 2023. | Series: Gridiron greats : pro football’s best players | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2020010902 | ISBN 9781422246092 (hardback) | ISBN 9781422272091 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Jackson, Lamar, 1997–Juvenile literature. | Quarterbacks (Football)–United States–Biography–Juvenile literature. | Football players–United States–Biography–Juvenile literature. Classification: LCC GV939.J29 C38 2021 | DDC 796.332092 [B]–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2020010902

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Chapter 1: Greatest Moments . . . . . . 7 Chapter 2: The Road to the Top . . . . 21 Chapter 3: On the Field . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Chapter 4: Words Count . . . . . . . . . . 51 Chapter 5: Off the Field . . . . . . . . . . 63 Series Glossary of Key Terms . . . . . 72

Further Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 Internet Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Photo Credits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Educational Video Links & Author Biography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80


Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the readers’ understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills.

Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments and much more! Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there.

Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis.

Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.

WORDS TO UNDERSTAND detractors – thosewho diminish the importance, value, or effectiveness of something formative – capable of alteration by growth and development gallivant – to move freely with pleasure mantra – an often-repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism



After two electrifying seasons, the 2019 National Football League (NFL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) Lamar Jackson became a household name, inspiring a generation of future quarterbacks (QBs) who can manage the position with their arms, legs, and intellect. Jackson’s ability to glide and slice through defenders by rushing the ball has garnered comparison to former Pro Bowl QB Michael Vick. His cannon-like arm strength has likened him to 2018 NFL MVP and 2020 Super Bowl champion QB Patrick Mahomes of Kansas City. Meanwhile, Jackson’s remarkable 37–12 record as a starter through his first four regular seasons has caused some to mention him in the same breath as a young Tom Brady. However, the more Jackson plays, the more one thing becomes abundantly clear—he is in a class all his own. Jackson’s journey to NFL stardombegan in South Florida where, at just eight years old, he tragically lost both his father and grandmother on the same day. His strong and resilient mother, Felicia Jones, raised Jackson on her own. Jones introduced Jackson to football, and she even put on the pads in the backyard of their childhood home to


train Lamar and his brother Jamar. It was during these formative years that Jackson learned his mother’s core values and built the character along with the skills he needed to be successful. After transferring to the Boynton Beach Community High School for his junior year, Jackson turned in a pair of high school seasons that caught the attention of several Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) programs. However, scouts questioned Jackson’s ability to play QB at the next level. He no doubt had elite speed and agility skills, and programs like those at the Universities of Florida and Nebraska could envision Jackson as a top-tier running back (RB) or wide receiver (WR). Jackson had his convictions though—he was a quarterback. One program was willing to guarantee that Jackson would be a quarterback only. Jackson rewarded head coach Bobby Petrino and the University of Louisville with the greatest seasons in the program’s history. In his sophomore season, Jackson was honored with numerous awards, including the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best collegiate player. After an equally impressive junior year at Louisville, Jackson declared for the draft. The critics were loud and plentiful. Again, people questioned if the athletic QB would be better suited at a skill position. Enter John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens, who traded up to select Jackson with the final pick of the first round. Since that moment, all Jackson has done is prove his doubters wrong by putting up historic numbers while leading Baltimore to the postseason in his first three NFL seasons. Lamar Jackson is the first QB to both throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. The 2019 MVP is doing things on the gridiron that nobody has ever before. There are no comparisons … Lamar Jackson is unique.


Lamar Jackson




MVP On February 1, 2020, Jackson became just the second player to be unanimously selected as the Associated Press NFL MVP for his historic 2019 season. Any time you are mentioned in the same breath as seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (who was unanimously selected MVP in 2010), you know you’ve had a historic year. Jackson comfortably broke the single-season rushing record for QBs and became the first player to throw for more than 3,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season. Jackson’s 37–12 record as a starter in the NFL is proof that athletic QBs can win at the highest level. After receiving the prestigious award, Jackson had some advice for the youth who may

have people doubt them, “Don’t worry about what they say. Do you. Stay focused because you want to be great, and you’re going tobe great. Just do you.” Lamar Jackson keeps doing Lamar Jack son and , i n doing so, became the youngest NFL MVP in history.

Lamar Jackson’s 2019 NFL MVP acceptance speech.


Lamar Jackson

FIRST CAREER TOUCHDOWN Jackson’s first NFL touchdown came in Week 7 of the 2018 season, when the rookie was still the Baltimore backup. Ravens head coach John Harbaughwanted to use his talented first-round pick in a variety of packages. With eight seconds remaining in the first half against the NewOrleans Saints, the Ravens lined up on 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line with Jackson under center and starting QB Joe Flacco lined up wide to his right. Jackson took a shotgun snap and faked a handoff to RB Alex Collins who ran from right to left. The Saints defense bought the fake, and Jackson powered through up the middle to give the Ravens a 10–7 lead going into the half.

Lamar Jackson’s first career touchdown.



BREAKING MICHAEL VICK’S QB RUSHING RECORD Coming into the 2019 season, the single-season rushing record for aQBwas 1,039 yards, set by Pro Bowl QBMichael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2006 season. During that season, Vick played all 16 games and rushed for an average of 8.4 yards per carry. In2019, in just 15games (Jacksonsat out thefinal gameof the regular season to rest for theplayoffswith thenumber one seed in theAFCalready secured for thefirst-placeRavens), Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards and an average of 6.9 yards per carry. Jackson officially broke Vick’s 13-year-old record with a 5-yard rush in Week 15 on Thursday Night Football ina42–21 thrashingof the New York Jets.

Lamar Jackson shows his toughness and breaks Michael Vick’s rushing record with a 5-yard run on Thursday Night Football .


Lamar Jackson

FIVE TOUCHDOWNS AND A PERFECT PASSER RATING IN MIAMI This was the game that gave birth to Jackson’s now-famous “Not Bad for a Running Back” mantra . Jackson led off the 2019 regular season, hard on the heels of another off-season of speculation about his passing abilities, with five touchdown passes, an 85 percent completion rate and a perfect passer rating. In passing for 325 yards, Jackson completely dismantled theMiami Dolphins on the road. The start put the league on notice and kicked off Jackson’s MVP season. With the Ravens up 14–0 late in the first quarter, Jackson connected with WR Marquise Brown for his longest strike of the day, an 83-yard bomb on the way to a convincing 59–10 win.

Jackson connects with fellow South Florida native Marquise “Hollywood” Brown for an 83-yard touchdown.



MORE PERFECTION ON THE ROAD When Jackson posted another perfect passer rating at Cincinnati in Week 10, he became the first ever to accomplish the feat twice on the road in one season. Jackson outshined his 85 percent completion rate from the Miami game by completing a career-high 88 percent of his passes on the way to a 49–13 victory over the Bengals. Inaddition tohisperfect passer rating, Jackson threwfor three touchdowns, rushed for a touchdown, andadded65yardson theground. Inperhapshismost impressive touchdown run of the season, Jackson ripped off a 47-yard run, including a devastating spin move

that sent defenders flying to the ground, hopelessly flailing to try to stop the MVP as he gallivanted into the end zone.

“He is Houdini!”Watch Lamar Jackson pull off a spin move for the ages on a 47-yard touchdown run against the Bengals.


Lamar Jackson

NEVER DONE BEFORE, 200/150 No QB in the history of the NFL had ever thrown for 200 yards and rushed for 150 yards in a regular-season game. That was until Jackson’s historic 2019 season. InWeek 6, Jackson rushed for 152 yards and threw for 236 more. Only Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers had ever accomplished the feat, but his performance came in the 2012 playoffs. The Ravens needed every yardof Jackson’s total, as theywere able to squeak by their divisional rivals, theCincinnati Bengals 23–17. Jackson scoreda21-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 7–7 in the first half for his only score of the contest, but it was another electrifying run.

A record-breaking day for Lamar Jackson in Week 6 versus the Bengals.



THE YOUNGEST PLAYOFF STARTING QB On January 6, 2019, oneday beforehis 22ndbirthday, Lamar Jacksonbecame the youngest QB in NFL history to start a playoff game. The 10–6 Ravens hosted the 12–4 Los Angeles Chargers in a wildcard weekend matchup that proved to be a lightning rod for Jackson’s supporters and detractors . Jackson struggledmightily over thefirst threequarters, as theChargers’ stout defense held the rookie toonly25yardspassingand theRavens fell behind12–3. Down23–3with less thansevenminutes left, Jacksonbeganstagingacomebackwitha31-yardtouchdownpass to Michael Crabtree.Ona4thand6 fromtheCharger’s8-yard line, Jackson foundCrabtreeagain

for a score to make it 23–17 at the 2-minute warning. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough as Jackson lost a fumble near midfield with less than 30 seconds remaining. The valiant comeback was stifled, but the young Jackson proved his resilience andearned the respect of his teammates.

Lamar Jackson becomes the youngest player to throw a touchdown pass in the playoffs to spark a fourth quarter comeback bid.


Lamar Jackson

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