Louisville Football: Jackson’s Shadow Won’t Stop Puma’s Light from Shining.


Lamar Jackson is the most decorated player in Louisville football history, but heir apparent Jawon Pass is ready to make his own mark with the Cards.

Lamar Jackson is ridiculous. Even seven months after leaving Louisville, he is still adding to the trophy pile as the most decorated football player in Louisville history. On Thursday, he was named the ACC Male Athlete of the year by the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"Jackson, who earned the 65th Anthony J. McKevlin Award as the conference’s premier male athlete, won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2016 and followed up last season with more eye-opening numbers as he accounted for an ACC-record 5,261 total yards with 45 touchdowns.The ACC Athlete of the Year Awards are given in memory of distinguished journalists from the region. McKevlin was a sports editor of the Raleigh (North Carolina) News and Observer, while Garber, of the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal, was a pioneer as one of the first female sports journalists in the nation.Louisville’s Jackson became the first player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,500 yards and pass for at least 3,500 yards in a single season – and he did so in consecutive years. The Pompano Beach, Florida, native earned Heisman Trophy finalist status for the second consecutive season in 2017 as he rushed 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns while throwing for 3,660 yards and 27 more TDs.Jackson is the second player in FBS history and the first non-senior to rush for 4,000 yards and pass for 9,000 yards in his career. He is the sixth student-athlete to be named the ACC Football Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons and the first since Florida State’s Charlie Ward in 1992 and 1993.The first quarterback in ACC history to lead the conference in rushing, Jackson average 123.2 yards per game (1,601 yards on 232 attempts). He broke the ACC career mark for most rushing yards and most touchdowns rushing by a quarterback in just three seasons. Jackson finished his career with 4,132 career rushing yards, bettering the mark of 2,806 set by Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbit (2007-10)."

Lamar Jackson is a unicorn. Think about this: he ran for 1,326 more yards in his career than the next closest quarterback. Oh, and he only started 31 games in his career-2 years and some change- yet, he is nearly doubling records.

Jackson is a quarterback, and he ran for 330 yards more than Saquon Barkley last year, who was widely considered the best running back in the country, and went second in the 2018 NFL draft.

Jackson left Louisville as an All-American, and back-to-back ACC Player of the Year, as well as back-to-back ACC offensive player of the year. Not to mention, he was the first Heisman winner in school history.

Enter Jawon “Puma” Pass.

According to Pass, one of the first things Jackson did after announcing he was turning pro was call Pass. He “gave me the keys to the program,” and told Pass it was his moment.

There is no doubt that Pass is ready to take the reins. He has been waiting in the wings for as many games at Jackson has been the starter, redshirting in 2016, and playing clean-up minutes in 2017. Bobby Petrino mentioned in his latest press conference that Pass was an extremely active participant in every facet, even when sitting behind Jackson. He would participate in every huddle possible, soaking in all of the coaching that Jackson received, and using that advice to make himself a better player.

Pass is a mobile quarterback. Nobody can be Jackson, but Pass is the next-best thing. Puma has the ability to be mobile, and still run the same read option packages that Jackson became so good at. When you take a quarterback with decent wheels, and you let him sit behind someone as elusive and talented as Jackson for two years, good things are going to come of it.

“We’re going to build the offense around me and to my strengths to put me in a position to be successful: staying in the pocket and throwing the ball, but also being able to run when it is necessary,” Pass said regarding what he brings to the table for the Cards.

Where there is a clear-cut advantage over Jackson, though, is that ability in the pocket. Where Jackson had to learn how to run an offense, learn to go to second and third options, and learn how to play under center, Pass already knows those things. Pass already possessed the skill set to play under center before leaving high school, and has worked under the greatest mind in the game for two years to really perfect his craft.

In limited game time, Pass has shown the ability to really distribute the ball. Pass completed 23-33 passes for 238 yards and two scores, while running 13 times for 62 yards and a score in a back-up role last season. Pass demonstrated the ability to make all of the throws both in-season, and during this year’s spring game.

“I’m not trying to be like (Jackson),” Pass said in a spring press conference. “I’m just trying to be the best possible Jawon Pass I can be, and everything else will handle itself.”

It’s true. Jawon Pass will never be Lamar Jackson, because nobody will ever be Lamar Jackson. Being Jawon Pass, though, could be even better for Louisville. As much as Jackson was of benefit to Louisville, it could even more beneficial for the team to have consistency.

“I’m not trying to be like Jackson, I’m just trying to be the best possible Jawon Pass I can be, and everything else will handle itself.”

If you have a unicorn, what do you do? How to you tame it, and keep it reined in? Jackson was a player that we had never seen the likes of before- like a unicorn- but nobody has ever had to run the unicorn offense before. No linemen had ever had to block for said fictional character, no receivers had to adjust their routes in said manner, and no one else has ever had to share a backfield with a unicorn.

Now, Bobby Petrino and his squad can get back to the basics. Although Petrino won’t be running the unicorn offense, he does have a weapon: a Puma. And this Puma has been sharpening his game, waiting for his moment, while Jackson has been dropping unicorn dust knowledge.

The results could be favorable for the Cards, and dangerous for opponents. Pass brings consistency, and a tremendous deal of talent under center right away.

Although it won’t be the speed or the ridiculous play-making fans are used to, the Cardinal offense has a very good chance to be just as potent.

Next: 5 Players Primed for Breakout Seasons

Puma Pass is ready for his moment. No shadow cast by Jackson is going to stop Pass’s light from shining. That will be a good thing for a hungry Cards team in 2018.