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Louisville star Lamar Jackson hopes to prove doubters wrong

Posted Mar 4, 2018

'Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going. That’s strictly my position'

INDIANAPOLIS —Lamar Jackson would like everyone to know that he intends on playing quarterback in the NFL and, frankly, doesn’t appreciate those who think he’d be better suited as a wide receiver.

“Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going,” he said Friday with a wide smile. “That’s strictly my position.”

Jackson, the electrifying Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, showed poise as he laughed off a report that teams wanted to see him work out at another position here at the league’s annual scouting combine. By the end of his news conference, he had many of those in attendance laughing along with him in what was a legitimately genuine, thoughtful and funny session with reporters.

“I’ve faced adversity throughout my whole life. Just coming up with youth football and going to high school,” said Jackson, a former four-star, dual-threat quarterback out of South Florida. “They said you can’t do this and that. Got to college, was able to do it. I’m here now. I’m ready for it.”

That approach could pay dividends for Jackson as teams evaluate him and a talented quarterback class that includes USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. What separates Jackson, however, from the others is his uncanny ability as a runner and how he used his arm and legs to dominate college football the past two years.

“I can throw on the run. I can throw to any part of the field. Any route,” he said, “and I have speed to get us out of anything, any trouble.”

While some have questioned Jackson’s ability as a passer, a plurality of analysts — including NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah — seem to strongly disagree. “If I were him and a team approached me,” Jeremiah said recently on NFL Network, “my piece of advice would be, if they ask you to switch positions, Lamar, shake their hand and say, ‘Thank you I look forward to playing against you. Say, ‘I’m  a quarterback. End of discussion.’”

“I think he’s the most fascinating athlete in this draft and I think a team’s going to bite on him and commit to him philosophically,” Mayock added Saturday in a news conference. “And you’ve got to understand what you’re getting.”

Indeed, Jackson’s on-field workout was up and down. He was inconsistent with his accuracy while others like Allen and Mayfield appeared to boost their stock during passing drills. Still, Mayock made clear that Jackson has proven his worth as a signal-caller at the next level.

"(He's) perhaps the best athlete in this draft and I think the way the NFL’s going, teams are going to start to commit," he said. "You saw what happened with Deshaun Watson. I think Bill O’Brien did an outstanding job of catering to Deshaun and making him comfortable last year and I think somebody's going to do that with Lamar because he’s Michael Vick and he has as good of legs as any quarterback in the history of the game."

In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, Jackson declined to run the 40-yard-dash in an effort to only showcase his passing ability. “I don’t need to show off my speed and show people I can make them miss,” he said. “I have to show off my arm. Because that’s where they doubt me."

Of course, he hopes to leave the combine having with less of those questions.

“I thought I did a good job at quarterback, I thought I did,” Jackson said, laughing. "But, hey, they say what they want to say. They’re going to build a story. I’m here now. I’m at the combine. I’m happy to be here. I just have to show off my ability.”

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