Lamar Jackson’s greatness differs from another Louisville legend

There probably has never been a more humble candidate for the Heisman Trophy than Lamar Jackson, representing the University of Louisville in the voting for college football’s most outstanding player in 2016.

Jackson is as soft spoken as they come, unassuming, unassertive, somewhat reluctant to accept all the praise coming his way, giving any credit for his accomplishments to his teammates. He genuinely seems surprised that the sports media is making such a fuss over him.

Lamar Jackson prefers wins over individual awards (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Lamar Jackson prefers wins over individual awards (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“I just go out there and play and try to win games and have fun with the team,” he said during a Monday evening press conference. The UofL sophomore indicated that he was surprised at being named a finalist for the Heisman award.

This  despite becoming the first player in Division I history to gain 1,500 yards rushing and 3,300 yards passing in a single season. Only the sixth player to ever post 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 passing touchdowns in a single season.

Jackson has achieved greatness in a year when the community of Louisville bade farewell to Muhammad Ali, one of the most recognized faces in the world. Ali was loved and respected in spite of his brashness, his arrogant speech and braggadocious personality.

Jackson is, without question, the polar opposite of Muhammad Ali, quietly going about his business. The UofL sophomore has the college football world focusing on him and Louisville football like never before in the history of the program. 

Jackson is not a natural when it comes to public speaking. He would rather be anywhere else instead of in front of a microphone. He is so reticent to speak that the result that he mumbles his remarks, often making his words almost incomprehensible.

There have been many great athletes at the University of Louisville, among them Darrell Griffith who led UofL to its first national basketball championship in 1980. Griffith was considered a Louisville legend long before his cut down the net in Indianapolis.

Jackson, regardless of his low key approach, may have already achieved the status of another “living legend” at UofL. He may well win the Heisman Trophy this weekend in New York, and may even contend for the award again next season.

But for Lamar Jackson, it’s pretty obvious that team honors come first with him. Even more apparent that Jackson will consider next season a failure if UofL is not a serious contender for the college football playoffs and a national championship.

If Bobby Petrino can assemble a support cast to protect him and take full advantage of his exceptional skills, Jackson’s senior year could be very special. The Heisman Trophy is nice, but it’s a distant second to what Jackson wants to accomplish at UofL. 

Card Game photographer assailed after UofL-Maryland game

A would-be thief came up empty-handed after attacking a photographer who frequently shoots University of Louisville games for UofLCardGame. The assailant fled after inflicting severe pain on a good friend and associate.

 Cindy Rice Shelton
Cindy Rice Shelton

Cindy Rice Shelton has been taking photos for Card Game since we became acquainted during the UofL baseball season. I was impressed with her shooting eye, and her work during the football and basketball seasons has significantly enhanced the graphics on the site.

Shelton, who was courtside Thursday for the UofL-Maryland women’s basketball game, had left the KFC Yum! Center at approximately 9:30 p.m. She had uploaded her SD cards to her laptop computer and was returning to her car a couple of blocks away.

After crossing the street at First and Main, someone attacked her, attempting to grab one or both of her cameras. “I had my cameras criss-crossed around my body,” she said. “When he couldn’t get the cameras, he just knocked me down on the sidewalk and ran away.”

“I was in severe pain, bloodying a knee and elbow, and having fallen on one of my cameras,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to get up by myself.”

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Bench propels Louisville basketball past Purdue

Ray Spalding setting the tone in the first half (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Ray Spalding setting the tone in the first half (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Have to be a little more confident about the future for the University of Louisville basketball team with the bench playing an integral role in UofL’s 71-64 win over Purdue. That’s a luxury UofL hasn’t enjoyed in recent seasons.

— Sophomore Ray Spalding leading the reinforcements, playing with newfound confidence and efficiency. Having the game of his UofL career after relieving Jaylen Johnson. He would set the tone in the first half, making all five of his field goal attempts and pull down nine rebounds. He would win up with 11 points in the game.

— Anas Mahmoud, a junior already, stepping in for Mangok Mathiang, still perfecting that move to the basket, making all four of his field goal attempts and winding up with nine points. He would also be credited with two assists, a block and a steal.

— Redshirt freshman Ryan McMahon coming through when the Cardinals needed him most, light out on his two 3-point attempts and two free throws. If Coach Rick Pitino needed to have more confidence in McMahon, he should have been convinced in his performance against Purdue.

— Senior Mangok Mathiang with perhaps his best start ever. Every basket he makes is a bonus, some of them unbelievable in this game. Splitting defenders, making hook shots, jumpers, even a scoop shot, he would make five of 11 field goal attempts, winding up with 11 points. He would also pull down eight rebounds and be credited with an assist and a steal.

 Not a great night for freshman V. J. King, who missed all three of his field goal attempts. But nobody doubts his time is coming, and that could happen any game now. That will make the bench even stronger.

Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium expansion has begun

Editor’s Note: The following has been edited to include updated information on Messer Construction.

Most University of Louisville football fans are still attempting to recover from those two bitter losses at the end of the regular season. A disappointing end to what at times held the promise being the best season ever.

The hangover is a natural reaction to some dashed expectations and is only temporarily. Despite the trainwreck at the end, UofL football was in contention for a college football playoff spot for much of the season. Close to competing for a national championship. Sooner or later, fans will draw strength from that fact.

Messer Construction's command center has been set up outside Gate 9.
Messer Construction’s command center has been set up outside Gate 9.

That’s why Tom Jurich is moving ahead with the $55 million expansion plans for Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, which will include an additional 10,000 seats, including 1,000 club seats, 70 premium boxes and 12 exclusive field-level suites.

Construction crews have already been doing preliminary work on the lawn of the football complex just outside the stadium. Security fencing has been installed, some trees and shrubbery have been removed, and several holes have been dug, apparently for preliminary electrical work.

Coming to your stadium in August 2018.
Coming to your stadium in August 2018.

A Louisville-based unit of Messer Construction, which built the Thornton’s Academic Center for Excellence, has set up a command facility just outside Gate 9 on North side of the stadium.

Messer Construction also is involved in a major expansion of Audubon Hospital on Poplar Level Road, the Old Forester Distillery on Main Street, and Thornton’s new corporate headquarters on Old Henry Road.

Sports Information Director Kenny Klein confirmed that the crews began work on Monday, as Jurich had promised back in June when he announced an expected completion date of August 6, 2018. That would be about three weeks before the regular season home opener against Notre Dame.

Klein said the crews are doing preliminary preparatory work. “It will be a while before the heavy cranes arrive,” he said. “But, yes, the stadium expansion project is underway.”

Jackson fumble leads to another Louisville stumble

Was it just a couple of weeks ago that the University of Louisville football team was considered a serious contender for the 2016 college football playoffs? Reality took a while to catch up, shattering any and all illusions or disillusions.  

Kirk Herbstreit, of ESPN, had UofL listed third in his rankings back then, saying on air that he believed the Cardinals were capable of beating top-ranked Alabama. There were lots of people who agreed with him, including those who made Louisville third in the Associated Press poll.

Another rocky day for Lamar Jackson in the season finale (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Another rocky day for Lamar Jackson in the season finale (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Quarterback Lamar Jackson, like his University of Louisville football team, is looking all too fallible these days. Either he’s not as good as was once considered or most teams have figured out how to slow him down considerably.

Two weeks ago, Jackson was considered a virtual shew-in for Heisman Trophy honors, the “lock of all locks,” considered by Las Vegas to be a 1-50 favorite for college football’s most coveted award.  He was at that point considered all but invincible.

The outlook changed dramatically when Louisville fell victim to Houston in a devastating 36-10 loss, exposing all of UofL’s weaknesses, knocking the Cardinals out of any serious discussion about the nation’s best football teams this season.

Jackson a mere shadow of his national perception in the loss, managing to make only 20 of 43 passes while rushing for only 33 yards. His team would register only one touchdown while Jackson was getting sacked 11 times.

Just when one couldn’t imagine things getting any worse, things did get worse on Saturday. Louisville was knocked off by arch-rival Kentucky 41-38 before a crowd of 54,075 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

When he wasn’t scorching UK’s defense, Jackson was keeping the Wildcats in the game. He would have three costly interceptions and would cough up the ball in the final minute that would lead to the winning field goal.

UofL’s slumping performance in recent weeks, along with Jackson’s problems, may have an impact on the Heisman race. The national sports media, being what it is, thrives on creating drama when none may actually exist.

The Heisman Trophy is generally associated with winners and national contenders, with an individual player usually receiving a lot of credit for his team’s success. Louisville is free fall now, no longer in contention, plummeting in the polls. 

Jackson has not done himself any favors in the past two games, making many Heisman voters scratch their heads, looking for possible reasons to reconsider their votes.