Fresh off of a pretty successful rookie season, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson deserves a lot of credit for his professional growth, unflappable demeanor, and of course his great play on the field. While all of it should go to Lamar and Lamar alone, there have been a few quarterbacks around the league in similar positions to him who have apparently reached out to support him getting to this point.
A recent piece by The Undefeated’s William C. Rhoden reveals Cam Newton to be a mentor to the 22 year old Jackson, a relationship which began thanks to a run-in between Newton and Ravens’ executive Ozzie Newsome. Ozzie recalls seeing Newton at the event who expressed interest in striking up contact with Lamar:
Newton states he had been keeping a close eye on Jackson’s progress, and saw some of himself in the 2016 Heisman winner out of Louisville. Knowing a thing or two about the inherent differences a black quarterback may face entering the league, his interaction with Ozzie in order to set up some interaction with Lamar was to be a sounding board for rookie:
“I just wanted to be a vessel or an outlet for him,” Newton told the Undefeated. “I just know being an African-American quarterback in this league, you’re facing different things than another quarterback might be facing and a lot of it is, your gift may be your curse. Your running ability may be something that people look down upon.”
A lot of this may sound familiar, dating back to almost a year. Bill Polian saying Lamar should play wide receiver, Lamar not running the forty yard dash in response, and on and on and on.
Here we are a year later, and Jackson has more than proven he can play the quarterback position. It may be unconventional, and go against the grain of what some people may expect in a position typically predicated on prolific passing numbers, but Jackson’s first year was a success and he still has plenty of room to grow.
Even being the number one pick back in 2010, Newton is all too familiar with the same type of skepticism Lamar faced:
“My road to the NFL was not the stereotypical way,” Newton said. “I was considered a ‘reach,’ kind of similar to any minority quarterback. … I didn’t really have anybody who I could say, ‘Hey, what am I supposed be looking for?’ When I came in, there was nobody who really had the same things that I was bringing to the table. Now I look up and I see — here’s another quarterback, a young gunner who reminds me somewhat of myself. He may be doing it faster, he may be more elusive, but at the end of the day, I still want to make the road as easy as possible.”
He also quelled concerns of the poor playoff showing by Jackson being some sort of referendum on the rookie’s shortcomings:
“That happens to everybody. Pocket passers, scrambling quarterbacks,” Newton said. “What Lamar went through is a symptom of playing football in general. I respect the Ravens for not pulling him, because it’s a learning process. He’s a rookie. Hell, I didn’t have my best games sometimes this year, and I’m going into my eighth year. You have to sit back and say, ‘This happens to everybody.’ ”
The article goes on to detail a fraternity of minority quarterbacks that have come together to form support for one another and the new guard such as Newton and Jackson. This includes some very impressive names such as Warren Moon, Shack Harris, and Michael Vick.
Ultimately, in Lamar’s case, he’s proven that he can play and has potential to be great in this league. The support of contemporaries such as the former MVP Newton will only make the road even easier.