Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s sensational sophomore quarterback, became the youngest player to win the Heisman Trophy and the first winner in program history in a landslide vote on Saturday.
Jackson, from Pompano Beach, Fla., received 2,144 total votes and 526 first place votes, beating out the runner-up Deshaun Watson, Clemson’s quarterback, who had 1,524 votes. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield finished third, followed by his teammate Dede Westbrook. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers finished fifth.
At 19 years 337 days, Jackson was five days younger than the Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was when he won the Heisman in 2013.
For much of the season, Jackson was viewed as the Heisman favorite, propped up by a breakout performance against Winston’s former team on Sept. 17, when he accounted for five touchdowns and 362 total yards in a 63-20 upset of the then second-ranked Seminoles.
Jackson continued a trend of Heisman success for dual-threat quarterbacks, joining the recent winners Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow as winners in the last 10 years. In 12 games, Jackson passed for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Only two other Football Bowl Subdivision players have thrown for 30 touchdowns and run for 20 touchdowns in one season: Auburn’s Newton in 2010 and Florida’s Tebow in 2007.
Jackson’s career began inauspiciously. In the 2015 season opener against Auburn, he threw an interception on his first pass attempt.
“Coach got to put me back out there; I know I’m going to do something now because I got it out of the way,” Jackson said, recalling his emotions walking back to the sideline after that play. “Throwing an interception, that was on my mind the whole time, that’s why I think I did it.”
Jackson’s first pass has long become an afterthought after a record-breaking sophomore year. No other F.B.S. player has thrown for 3,300 yards and rushed for 1,500 yards in a season. Against Syracuse on Sept. 9, Jackson became the first F.B.S. player to throw for more than 400 yards and rush for 175 yards in a game.
Jackson nearly doubled his passing and rushing output from his freshman season, where he saw action in 11 games and the Cardinals went 8-5.
Although Jackson was the clear favorite among voters, if Peppers had a vote, he said he would have cast it for Watson.
“The reason I gave Deshaun a slight edge, one was because a head-to-head matchup win, you got to take that into account,” Peppers said, referring to Clemson’s 42-36 victory over Louisville on Oct. 1. “He finished the season strong, his team is in the playoffs.”
Watson was a finalist for the second straight year after finishing third last season. In leading the Tigers to the College Football Playoff, Watson threw for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns, better passing numbers than Jackson, who also played in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last year, Watson carried Clemson to the national title game, passing for 4,104 yards, 35 touchdowns, with 1,105 rushing yards and 12 more touchdowns on the ground.
Peppers did not have a record-breaking season like Jackson, but he redefined the linebacker position. Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh also deployed Peppers in the secondary and at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and as a returner throughout the season, drawing comparisons to two other versatile Michigan players who won the Heisman, Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard.
Mayfield, who finished fourth in last year’s vote, posted similar numbers as he did 2015, throwing for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for six touchdowns. Throughout the season, his top target was Westbrook, who caught 16 touchdowns and totaled 1,465 yards receiving. Westbrook was also Oklahoma’s big play threat, with 16 of his 74 receptions going for 50 yards or more. He was the only senior finalist this year.