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Lamar Jackson Is Obsessed With Winning the Super Bowl
Lamar Jackson doesn’t plan on putting up his MVP trophy until he wins a bigger one.
By Ryan Mink Sep 08, 2020

If you were to go to Lamar Jackson's house, you wouldn't find his MVP trophy, nor his Heisman trophy. 

They're in a closet, still bubble-wrapped in the luggage they were shipped in.

"If we win a Super Bowl, I'll put my stuff up. But I'm not putting stuff up right now," Jackson said. "I'm focused on getting a bigger trophy."

Jackson does have a championship ring … from when he was 11 years old. He got it after he won the Super Bowl as the star of the Northwest Broward Raiders of the South Florida Youth Football League.

"It's one of, if not the, best moments of my life," Jackson said.

Jackson is the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy, the youngest quarterback to ever start an NFL playoff game, the youngest quarterback to start the Pro Bowl, the youngest quarterback to win NFL MVP and only second player to win it by unanimous vote. Oh, and he toppled Michael Vick's single-season quarterback rushing record.

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But despite the piles of awards and records, Jackson hasn't taken home many team honors, which doesn't sit well for such a team guy. He's been chasing that through high school, through college, and in the NFL.

No matter what Jackson does this season, no matter what jaw-dropping highlights he floods social media with or how many regular-season wins and awards he piles up, people will still be waiting to see what he does in the playoffs because that's where Jackson's off to an 0-2 start.

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Fixing that, and winning the Lombardi Trophy, is all he cares about.

"It's unceasing, it's burning," Ravens Quarterbacks Coach James Urban said of Jackson's Super Bowl desires. "It's short of an obsession, but it's an obsession – if you get what I'm saying."

"WE CHOSE THE RINGS"

By South Florida standards, it was a cool November day at Dillard High School when the Northwest Broward Raiders took on the Fort Lauderdale Hurricanes in the 11U FYFL Super Bowl.

The stands were packed to see if Jackson and his Raiders could knock off the undefeated, back-to-back champs. At the end of the regular season, the Hurricanes topped the Raiders, 12-0, and were riding a 40-something-game win streak.

"That was the big game. That was the game everybody wanted to see," said Ed "Bubba" Jones, the head coach of Jackson's Raiders. "And we whupped 'em!"

The game didn't start off so well, however. On the Raiders' first offensive drive, Jackson marched them down the field to the 3-yard line. Jones called a spread formation quarterback draw up the middle – and Jackson fumbled.

"After that, all the jitters went out and he threw two touchdowns. Kicked the extra points, too," Jones said with a laugh.

"I wish I could find this photo of me with him on the sideline. You can see the intensity when I'm giving him the play – the intensity in his eyes and the focus he has. You know that picture of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning shaking hands at midfield where they look at each other like, 'I'm gonna kick your ass.' That's what Lamar looked like."

The Raiders won, 14-6. Jackson still remembers the fumble (he actually recalls fumbling twice). He also remembers laying a massive hit on a Hurricane player, sending his helmet flying, but Jones said that was in the regular-season meeting. Most of all, Jackson remembers that winning feeling.

"It was epic for us as little kids," Jackson said. "Coach asked us if we wanted to go to Disney World or get a ring. We chose the rings."

What 11-year-old kid turns down Disney World? The rings cost around $200 each and Jackson and his teammates wore them like they were worth a million bucks. Like his other awards, it's not on display now, but Jackson saw it when he was moving recently, so he knows he still has it.

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Ravens wide receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown grew up playing in the same youth football league, but in a younger division. He and Jackson played each other once when Brown joined up with an older squad that didn't have enough players. Brown was playing safety and says he picked Jackson off.

"Everybody knew him. He was the only dude at 8 years old that threw the ball," Brown said on “The Lounge” podcast. "Everybody was so scared of him running that he would throw it over your head so I just stayed back. They won the game though. Actually, there was a lightning delay, so we never finished!

"We still talk about those games, how he might have outrun somebody or hit somebody or threw a touchdown. We go at it and have memories about it all the time."

Winning a championship, even a youth football championship, is a big deal in South Florida, where the kids were watching film at before they were teenagers. Jackson's personal throwing coach who he had worked out with ever summer since college, Joshua Harris, believes it's where Jackson's championship obsession began.

"The little kids leagues are so competitive," Harris said. "You have no bragging rights if you haven't won a Super Bowl in whatever your league is. There's a lot of great players down here, so what separates the greats are the ones who won."

"WE TALK ABOUT ANY LOSS I TOOK"

Jones remembers how people literally gasped when they saw 11-year-old Jackson run like a deer, then throw the ball 40 yards. By the time he was a senior at Boynton Beach High School, he was a household name in South Florida prep football circles.

He was putting up gaudy statistics and Boynton Beach was averaging nearly 50 points per game when it met Hallendale High School for a battle of two unbeatens. It was Halloween Night in 2014 when Jackson and his teammates traveled 45 minutes south for the District 15-6A title.

Jackson had dominated Hallendale one year earlier, knocking them out of state playoff contention with a 35-7 victory. A full scouting report on Jackson, who had transferred to Boynton Beach High after sitting out a year, hadn't reached Hallendale's coaches' desks. Ill prepared, Jackson ran wild.

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This time, Hallendale was ready and had a star quarterback of their own in Tyler Huntley (yes, that Tyler Huntley who the Ravens signed as an undrafted rookie this year). The two quarterbacks went back and forth. Jackson ripped off a 51-yard touchdown run. Huntley threw a 52-yard touchdown. Down a couple touchdowns at halftime, Jackson took over in the third quarter, scoring on a 12-yard juking run, then a 70-yard touchdown throw.

"I remember Lamar just doing his thing, just running up the scoreboard," Huntley said on “The Lounge” podcast. "In order for us to win the game, we had to keep going back-and-forth with him."

Hallendale came back with a couple more touchdowns to take a 35-22 lead with just under four minutes to play, but Jackson wasn't done. He answered with a 44-yard touchdown pass, then following a recovered onside kick, found his receiver with a 17-yard touchdown with 30 seconds left.

But Huntley got the last laugh, quickly driving Hallendale down the field to set up a 31-yard game-winning field goal with no time remaining. It was a crushing defeat, and one Jackson still thinks about.

As fate would have it, the Ravens signed Huntley, who went on to star at Utah, as an undrafted free agent this offseason. As soon as the news was announced, Jackson tweeted at Huntley, "You owe me from that game I didn't forget."

"Hell yeah I still think about that game! Hell yeah," Jackson said. "We still be talking about it. We talk about any loss I took. I definitely think about those losses more than the wins."

Jackson's last high school game was a 49-6 loss to powerhouse Miami Central, which was going for its fourth state title in five years. Jackson was 3-of-9 passing for 36 yards, two interceptions and was sacked nine times.

After the game, Central's coach told the Miami Herald that "our game plan was to make sure he doesn't beat us and make somebody else beat us." Opponents have taken the same approach ever since.

When he was training Jackson during his college days, with Jackson becoming one of the nation's hottest tickets, Harris noticed Jackson would still talk about his high school games with his friends.

"I would be like, 'Bro, what are you talking about!?' I had to go back and watch that Hallendale game," Harris said. "It still haunts him. He talks about it all the time."

Harris' 15-year-old son, Hezekiah, trained with Jackson and some Ravens players this offseason. Hezekiah has three years left at St. Thomas Aquinas High, so in red marker, he wrote win a state championship and drew three empty boxes.

"Lamar never won a state championship, so he said, 'You've gotta win one for me,'" Hezekiah told Sports Illustrated. "I told him, 'I got you.' I put the sign on my ceiling for when I lay down in my bed, and I can always see it, to remind me that's the goal."

"I HATE LOSING, PERIOD"

Louisville football had a storied program, but it hadn't had a star like Jackson.

Jackson lifted Louisville's college football program to new heights, starting in 2015 when he was a true freshman starter. After losing his first three games, Jackson rattled off seven wins in the last nine games, including a Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M.

He became a Heisman Trophy contender as a sophomore with an early-season 63-20 thumping of then No. 2-ranked Florida State, in which he ran for four touchdowns and threw another. That propelled Louisville to No. 3 in the national rankings.

But two weeks later, the Cardinals fell in an epic 2016 shootout against No. 5 Clemson and quarterback DeShaun Watson. Jackson and Watson traded blows with Clemson coming out on top, 42-36. Jackson posted 457 yards of offense himself. Watson threw five touchdowns.

Louisville suffered three straight losses to end the season, including to heavy underdog and chief rival Kentucky. Then came LSU in the Citrus Bowl. Jackson was flustered by LSU's swarming defense, running 26 times for just 33 yards and going 10-of-27 for 153 yards passing. It was a sour ending to a Heisman campaign.

Jackson's junior year brought more eye-popping stats, but also more frustration in the win-loss column. There was another defeat at the hands of Clemson, followed by three more regular-season defeats.

His college career ended with a 31-27 loss to Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl, in which Jackson ran for 158 yards, including a career-long 75-yard scamper, but also threw a career-high four interceptions.

As is always the case in football, the blame for mistakes falls on multiple shoulders (one interception went right through a receiver's hands, for example). As has been a prevailing theme in Jackson's scattered losses over his career, he nearly brought his team back with a furious late-game rally. He never stops competing.

In the post-game press conference, Jackson sat with slumped shoulders, reading over the stats trying to figure out what happened. He had put Louisville football back on the map, but he was not happy to be leaving like that.

"I hate losing, period. All of them sting the same," Jackson says. "You lost. It doesn't matter how you lost. It could be a dog fight, but they're not going to say, 'Great game!' They're going to say, 'He lost. He wasn't able to perform, he wasn't able to score touchdowns, he lost.' That's what it is. Once you lose, nothing else matters."

"I WAS SICK. I WAS HURT"

Jackson's first statement as a Baltimore Raven, standing on the NFL Draft stage in Nashville, was, "They're gonna get a Super Bowl out of me. Believe that."

Those weren't empty words. They were a promise to the organization that believed in him.

It looked like Jackson might have a chance to deliver in just his first year, as he lit a fire under the Ravens after taking over for Joe Flacco midway through the season. The Ravens were perhaps the NFL's hottest team rolling into the playoffs, with a rookie quarterback that the league was frantically trying to catch up to.

That is until the Los Angeles Chargers stormed into M&T Bank Stadium with a stop-Jackson-at-all-costs game plan and left with a stunning 23-17 wild-card win. Jackson was credited with three fumbles (one lost), threw one interception, and was sacked seven times. A late-game comeback ended with a fumble.

His first playoff loss stung, but it wasn't as painful as last year's divisional loss to Tennessee, which came on the heels of a 14-2 regular season and MVP campaign.

Jackson was intercepted on the Ravens' first offensive drive when a slightly-too-high pass bounced off tight end Mark Andrews' fingertips. Jackson was so frustrated that he was flagged for a personal foul for nearly ripping off Titans safety Kevin Byard's head when making the tackle himself.

In typical form, Jackson rallied and, overall, played a good game – much better than he did against the Chargers the year before. He didn't get a lot of help, as there were critical drops and the defense lapsed at critical times. Jackson was stuffed twice on fourth down.

The night after that loss, Jackson went home and did nothing. He didn't leave his room, he didn't want to talk to anyone.

"I was sick. I was hurt," Jackson said. "I was just replaying it in my head like, 'What the … ? How?' You're so used to Victory Mondays and then it's like what the hell? What do you do now? I hate that feeling."

Jackson got a reprieve at the Pro Bowl a couple weeks after the playoff loss, which brought him back together with nearly a dozen of his teammates. He was the star of the show in the eyes of fans and his peers around the league.

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But when the Orlando getaway ended, Jackson had to go home to Miami, the site of Super Bowl LIV. He didn't want to be anywhere close to it. Problem was, he was going to be honored as the league's MVP the night before the big game.

"I really didn't want to do that," Jackson said. "I really didn't want to be in Miami not preparing for the Super Bowl."

Jackson remembers watching every Super Bowl growing up, but he didn't watch last year's tilt between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, the team the Ravens were seemingly on a collision course with for in the AFC championship.

"We've just got to get back to that point again," Jackson said. "And this time, it's going to be different."

"PATRICK MAHOMES AND THE CHIEFS"

Just about every 2020 season prediction has the Ravens and the Chiefs as the favorites in the AFC. They'll face off on Monday Night Football in Baltimore in Week 3, and there's more than a few pundits who have them meeting again in January.

It's a budding rivalry, and so far, the Chiefs are on top by a score of 2-0. In 2018, Mahomes pulled off a crazy fourth-down pass to Tyreek Hill. Last year, Jackson had his shakiest passing performance in Arrowhead Stadium and couldn't bring the Ravens all the way back despite a late flurry.

Jackson vs. Mahomes has been talked about as the new Brady vs. Manning – two star quarterbacks seemingly destined to clash in huge games for years to come. Jackson doesn't give a hoot about that narrative.

"I don't really care for rivalries or thinking about another QB," Jackson said. "I play offense, he plays offense. We've got to worry about each other's defenses."

Asked what first comes to mind when he hears the words "Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs," Jackson said, "Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs." That's it.

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"I don't have any problem with them," Jackson said. "Those two losses definitely make me mad, but it is what it is. Move on. We've got them again this year."

Mahomes got a record breaking 10-year, $503 million contract this offseason, making him the NFL's riches player. Jackson, who will be eligible to negotiate a new contract after this season, basically shrugged when asked about Mahomes' money and said he needs to win a Super Bowl first.

"He never talks about Mahomes. Never even crosses his mind," Harris said. "I love it about him. He's really not fueled by jealousy, envy, hatred to beat anybody. He's really not focused on anybody else except himself. His goal is to win a Super Bowl and he knows if we're at our best, we're there."

The Ravens hope Jackson follows the same career arc as Mahomes, who won the MVP in his first full season as a starter, then the Super Bowl MVP in Year 3. Jackson certainly has the talent to do so.

It's not that Jackson and the Ravens can't beat the good teams. Baltimore beat (and in some cases blew out) five playoff teams last year: Seattle, New England, Houston, Buffalo and San Francisco. It's just that they have to do it in the playoffs. And they probably have to beat the Chiefs.

"I don't think there's any hump [to get over]. We just have to play like we do during the regular season, that's all," Jackson said. "We've just got to focus on us. Let the outside noise be outside noise. We just got to focus on ourselves."

"I'M TRYING TO GET A SUPER BOWL"

Jackson sometimes pictures himself in the Super Bowl. He doesn't picture himself throwing a game-winning pass or running for a long touchdown. He pictures the celebration at the end.

That's what he always enjoyed watching on TV as a kid. That's what he enjoyed most when he was a Northwest Broward Raider. It was winning with his teammates, all of them getting those rings. They've been swapping those stories ever since.

"Seeing the excitement on the teams' faces when they win the Super Bowl … all the adversity they face during the season, the hard work and dedication they put in, to see the expressions on their faces," Jackson said. "They're having the time of their life, got their kids and family with them, confetti falling, holding up that Lombardi Trophy. It's just amazing seeing that. I want to be a part of it – very soon."

Jackson doesn't want to win a Super Bowl so much for himself as he wants to win it with his guys. He said he wanted it for Marshal Yanda last year, to send the eventual Hall of Fame guard into retirement the right way.

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"People always ask me what's his No. 1 key trait. I think it's loyalty," Harris said. "People gravitate to him and he gravitates to them. It's so genuine. His mindset is that he wants to put on for these people who have been loyal to me and supported me. I just want to do my best for them.

"In his mind, the best for them is winning a championship because everybody can celebrate that. The Heisman, the MVP, all these other awards, those don't matter to him. His teammates may congratulate him and he may say, 'This is ours,' but he knows the ultimate team trophy is that Super Bowl. That's what drives him." 

When Harris started training with Jackson before the 2019 season, he set the "lofty" goal of reaching the Pro Bowl. Jackson scoffed. "Coach, Super Bowl. I don't care about the Pro Bowl," he said.

When their training began this offseason, there was no need to state the goal. It was obvious. Jackson said it constantly, and everyone around him saw it. The destination is Tampa in 2021.

"I feel like he's more hungry," Hollywood Brown said. "He pressed the issue about the Super Bowl. That's his No. 1 goal – he wants to win a Super Bowl, and he wants to win more than one. So, it's our job to make sure that we're right to go out there and compete, and at a high level."

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"He's very motivated, he's very determined, he's worked very hard," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a realist. He really understands what's required and what he needs to do to take his game to the level that brings our team to a championship. That's what he wants to do. That's his whole focus and goal. That's what I always admire about him, and that's why I always respect him so much."

Jackson is just 23 years old. Manning didn't win his first Super Bowl until he was nearly 31 years old, after losing his first three playoff games. Jackson knows his career is still in its infancy, but he's done crawling. He wants to turn on those jets and run.

"I'm still young. There's still a next time for me," Jackson said. "But, eventually, those next times run out. So I definitely have to win as fast as possible. That's why I'm trying to get a Super Bowl. Not just one, but a few."

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