The Jets rookie cornerback began to realize what was going on when he would Google his name and another football player’s face would show up. It was only after he entered more details about his life — like his hometown or his college — that he could find his own image and what was being written about him.
“That’s when I knew, ‘Damn, I’m going to be in the shadow of this Lamar Jackson forever,’ ” cornerback Lamar Jackson said last week.
Every rookie in the NFL is trying to make a name for himself. For Jackson, an undrafted cornerback out of Nebraska, that will be especially difficult.
The “other” Lamar Jackson is coming off an MVP season with the Ravens, is featured on the cover of “Madden 21” and looks like he could be one of the faces of the NFL for the next two decades. The Jets’ Jackson is trying to make the team.
The 22-year-old has been running with the second team during practices in training camp. He is a long shot to make the roster when the Jets cut down to 53 players this weekend, but has a good chance of being kept on the practice squad.
As for the famous player he shares his name with, Jackson has a good outlook on it. He did not mind getting questions from a reporter on it and knows it is something he has to accept.
“He’s the quarterback, he’s the MVP, he’s the Heisman Trophy winner. He’s great,” Jackson said. “Me, as a football player, me being a corner, of course I want to be the one that can stand my name. I want to be the one who can say I’m the Lamar Jackson, I’m the best. But with my situation I’d be ignorant if I actually did that or if I actually tried to convince somebody of that. So, I just take the back seat and just have fun with it.”
Jackson himself was once a quarterback. Growing up in Elk Grove, Calif., he played quarterback before ending up on defense at Nebraska. There he became a three-year starter and had three interceptions last year to go along with 40 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 12 pass breakups.
The draft experts projected Jackson to be a third-day pick but he did not hear his name called. Jackson said he was “distraught.” At 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, Jackson is a big corner. His 40 time of 4.59 seconds may have hurt him in the draft. Jackson is not sure what happened. But he now uses it as motivation.
“When it comes to why I didn’t get drafted, that’s one of the things I’m going to have to live with. That’s one of the things I have to stomach,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, they let me get my foot in the door and now it’s up to me to stay here and prove to everybody that I belong. It created a big chip [on my shoulder]. I think that’s what I needed to just push, push, push when times get hard or the days get long.”
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Once the draft was finished, Jackson had offers from several teams. His agent steered him toward the Jets because he saw an opportunity for him with the team and one of his other clients had a good experience with coach Adam Gase in Miami.
Jackson knows his margin of error is slim as an undrafted player. One bad practice could get him cut. But he is determined to make it. Jackson said he had a tough upbringing as the son of a single mother. He is the oldest of five children and sees himself as his siblings’ role model.
“I’m setting the footprint,” Jackson said. “I just graduated from college. I’m doing a lot of stuff that no one, even myself, expected me to do. It’s pressure, but it’s not really pressure. It’s a good feeling to know that I’m doing more than what was expected from me. I’m the backbone of my family and I’m doing something different and not just being a statistic. I’m punching through the sky and showing whatever you can do if you put the work in and you put the time in, you can do it.”
As far as his siblings are concerned, there is only one Lamar Jackson and it does not matter how many trophies the Ravens quarterback wins.
“I don’t know when there will be a time when I’m the more famous or I’m the more popular Lamar Jackson,” Jackson said. “As long as I’m doing what I need to do and my people are proud of me, it’s just a name and we can be great together.”
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