ORLANDO, Fla. — Universal Studios amusement park might not be the most secluded place for a new Heisman Trophy winner to visit. It certainly wasn’t this week for Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is still learning how to be a national celebrity.
Naturally, inside the theme park, he was often stopped by fans.
“When people see me, I’ll be like shocked sometimes,” Jackson said. "Fans ask, ‘Lamar? Are you Lamar?’ Stuff like that. And I’ll be like, ‘Uh, yeah.’ I don’t even know what to say sometimes, but, yeah, it’s cool.”
Jackson will probably have to get used to the attention, celebrity messages and media buzz. None of it looks like it's about to dissipate.
"I thought he handled it great," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said of all the attention. "I thought he did a tremendous job representing our football team and the University of Louisville. I did think it took a little toll on him, wore him out a little bit.
"So when we first came back and got back in the routine of practice and lifting and conditioning, it took him a few days to get lack to Lamar. But he's a guy with a tremendous amount of energy. He loves going out and practicing. He loves being around his teammates, and he's done a great job in our bowl preparation."
The first Heisman winner in school history finished the regular season with 3,390 yards passing, 1,538 yards rushing and 51 total touchdowns and led No. 15 Louisville to a 9-3 record.
While it may be impossible to completely contain a player as explosive as Jackson, No. 19 LSU (7-4) knows it will have to slow him down to win the Citrus Bowl.
“You have to try to take away what he does best,” LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. “I think so much of what he does is, if you try to rush him where it's going to contain him, keep him in the pocket. I think he's a fine enough passer to complete balls on you. If you try to rush him and be creative with your pressures and whatnot, you can get him out of the pocket, and he can hurt you with his feet. So that has shown up consistently throughout the games that they've played so far.”
While Jackson seems to have reached household-name status nationally since winning the Heisman earlier this month, his teammates know he’s still the same player who’s been with them all season.
“I mean, nothing's really changed really,” senior wide receiver Jamari Staples said. “He won the Heisman. Yeah, we know, but Lamar is still Lamar. He's still the same goofy guy.”
The rest of the Cardinals’ roster, who had a Heisman watch party at Louisville’s stadium, may have enjoyed the win even more than Jackson did. In the week leading up to the Citrus Bowl, his teammates have often talked about the accomplishment and complimented him, not for what he does on the field but for who he is as a person.
“We enjoy it, too," sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Smith said. "We enjoy it just as much as he does. He’s the most humble, the most team guy. He’s the least selfish person I’ve ever met.”
“It's amazing, you know, that he won Heisman. He deserves it,” senior linebacker Keith Kelsey added. “I mean, it's a great feeling. Felt like the whole team and coaching staff won the Heisman.”
Jackson’s humble attitude can also be seen in his goals for the end of the season. While a Heisman winner would be expected to want to cap off his year with a bowl win to help his own legacy, Jackson is more concerned with getting a win for the team’s seniors.
“My team wants to win. We've got seniors leaving,” Jackson said.
“My brothers (are) leaving so we've got to let them leave out on top. The last two games (losses to Houston and Kentucky), I’m still mad about those.”
While it was widely expected Jackson would win the Heisman during most of the season, a player is always viewed differently once they have actually won the award. But Jackson isn’t concerned about possibly having a target on his back.
“It’s going to come with it, you know, but I’m not really worrying about it,” he said. “We’ve got a great offensive line so we've just got to get ready.”