ATLANTA — Lamar Jackson picked up another trophy for his marvelous season.
The Louisville quarterback got a glimpse of the one he really wants.
On a red-carpet night in Atlanta, Jackson captured the Maxwell Award as the nation's top college player Thursday night and signaled himself as the clear favorite for the Heisman Trophy.
Jackson already won the Walter Camp Award, also given to the best player.
“I'm shocked. I've got butterflies. I never had those before,” the sophomore said, posing with his Maxwell Award after a ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame, where eight other award winners were announced.
In an interesting twist, Clemson's Deshaun Watson claimed the Davey O'Brien award as the nation's top quarterback for the second year in a row — beating out Jackson.
Now it's on to New York, where they're both finalists for college football's most prestigious individual award.
“He's a tremendous player himself. He's done lot of great things,” Jackson said of Watson. “If he does (win the Heisman), oh well. Best man.”
Both quarterbacks got a look at a 25-pound Heisman Trophy on display in the Hall of Fame.
Jackson was impressed by the size.
“It's a big trophy,” he said. “I'm going to need to do some more push-ups.”
Watson hasn't given up on his dream of claiming the Heisman before he heads off to the NFL. He won't return for his senior season, having already earned his college degree in just three years.
“I have a lot of confidence in the way I've played over the course of the season,” said Watson, who finished third in the Heisman race a year ago behind winner Derrick Henry of Alabama and runner-up Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.
While the Maxwell voting is a solid indication of how the Heisman race might go, it's no guarantee. In fact, only two of the last five winners — Henry and Marcus Mariota in 2014 — went on to capture the more illustrious award.
Watson is holding out hope that he'll pull out a come-from-behind victory over Jackson, who had been considered the overwhelming favorite until the Cardinals lost their last two games.
Even with that, Jackson's numbers are mind-boggling. He passed for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,538 yards and 21 TDs.
Watson guided Clemson to another Atlantic Coast Conference championship and a second straight appearance in the College Football Playoff. The Tigers will meet Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal on New Year's Eve.
As for his Heisman chances, Watson said confidently, “I'm expecting to win. I always expect to have success.”
He's already a huge success — on and off the field. Watson took his last final exam Wednesday in a political communication class.
“Next Thursday at this time, I will have a degree in hand and be a graduate,” he said. “It feels great.”
Also during the awards ceremony televised by ESPN:
- Top-ranked Alabama picked up a couple of honors leading into its Peach Bowl semifinal against Washington, which will be held at the nearby Georgia Dome. End Jonathan Allen claimed the Chuck Bednarik Award as the top defensive player, while offensive tackle Cam Robinson earned the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman. Allen's latest award — he already won the Bronko Nagurski and Ted Hendricks — further justified his decision to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior year. “I couldn't imagine my senior season going better than this,” he said.
- D'Onta Foreman provided a bright spot to Texas’ dismal season by winning the Doak Walker Award as the top college running back. He rushed for more than 2,000 yards and defied skeptics who said he would have to change position in college. “With everything going on in our program,” he said, referring to the firing of coach Charlie Strong, “I'm glad to bring this back to the Texas community.”
- Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook claimed the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's outstanding receiver after teaming with quarterback Baker Mayfield for 74 receptions, 1,465 yards and 16 touchdowns in a Big 12 championship season. Mayfield was a finalist for both the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien but didn't win either.
- Adoree’ Jackson of Southern Cal, decked out in a blue tux, picked up the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back and doled out fashion tips afterward. One bit of advice: Don't spend a lot of money on the shoes. “I'm an H&M sort of guy,” he said. “They look good but they're pretty cheap.”
- Zane Gonzalez of Arizona State received the Lou Groza trophy as the top kicker, while the Ray Guy Award for best punter went to Utah's Mitch Wishnowsky, the latest in a wave of Australians who have revolutionized the position.
In addition, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre was recognized as the previously announced winner of The Home Depot Coach of the Year Award, Pittsburgh running back James Connor earned with the Disney Spirit Award as most inspirational player for overcoming cancer, and retired coach Steve Spurrier received the Contributions to College Football Award.
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