NFL draft’s Spider-Man meme: The other Lamar Jackson
- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Lamar Jackson will introduce himself and people will look at him funny. Not that they’re meeting Lamar Jackson, but that he actually is Lamar Jackson. There is confusion, denial and, eventually, Jackson convincing people he is who he says he is.
Even though the second-guessing makes sense. Because while Lamar Jackson plays football — he was a three-year starter at Nebraska with five career interceptions — he isn’t that Lamar Jackson, you know, the MVP who plays quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens.
That confusion will only accentuate this weekend at the NFL combine — defensive backs work out Sunday — as Jackson continues to navigate the draft process in a league in which the name Lamar Jackson is already more or less spoken for.
“… One of the worst things, I’m like, ‘How are you doing? Nice to meet you. Lamar Jackson,'” cornerback Jackson said. “They kind of laugh and look at me, like, ‘You’re not Lamar Jackson.’
“No. Really. Lamar Jackson. Nice to meet you.”
Social media can be an adventure, even though the two Jacksons have different handles — quarterback Jackson is @Lj_era8 and cornerback Jackson is @theroyal_21 — and profile pictures that show different jerseys. Nebraska fans learned to defend cornerback Jackson whenever a Twitter user, not paying attention, came with criticism about the Ravens or the quarterback’s play.
For the past two years — longer, really — cornerback Jackson has lived with the realization, in football, he likely will never be as famous as his quarterback counterpart. Even as cornerback Jackson gets ready to go through the draft process, meet with teams and explain why he’s a good fit for a defensive system, he knows when he gets to the league he’ll be the other Lamar Jackson.
“It’s hard, because I can’t be like, ‘Lamar Jackson, I’m the real Lamar Jackson,'” said cornerback Jackson. “Because at the end of the day, that’s Mr. MVP. Mr. Heisman. You know, that’s the guy. …
“I can’t wait to meet him. I’m a fan of him. I think he’s amazing and is probably going to take Baltimore to the Super Bowl here soon. It’s a blessing, really, to have his name.”
Cornerback Jackson is a little over a year younger than quarterback Jackson but has been following him since before quarterback Jackson became a sensation at Louisville and evolved into one of the NFL’s dominant quarterbacks. He first learned about quarterback Jackson by Googling his own name when he was in high school in California.
He started to see another Lamar Jackson popping up — a quarterback in Florida who was also going to various recruiting camps. He didn’t pay it much mind then. In fact, cornerback Jackson would go on to be a higher-rated recruit according to ESPN’s database.
“As he blew up, blew up, blew up, won the Heisman, got drafted first round, won MVP, it was like, ‘Damn, I’m not ever going to hear the end of this,'” cornerback Jackson said.
Felicia Jones, quarterback Jackson’s mother and manager, said in an email to ESPN that her son has “no knowledge” of cornerback Jackson and has never been mistaken for him on social media, but “we wish Lamar the best in this year’s draft!”
Cornerback Jackson is not the only player in this draft class dealing with it.
A.J. Green may play receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, but at the Senior Bowl, A.J. Green the Oklahoma State cornerback was also coached by the Bengals’ staff. One coach joked with him and said, “We already got an A.J. Green,” to which cornerback A.J. responded, “Well, coach, draft another one.”
Unlike cornerback Jackson, cornerback Brown saw his established NFL counterpart at the Pro Bowl a few years ago. Cornerback Brown (given name Alvin) got receiver Brown (given name Adriel) to sign something for him but missed the opportunity to do a real-life Spider-Man meme by telling him that he, too, was A.J. Green.
The name doppelgangers are content with their realities. Cornerback Jackson is OK with quarterback Jackson having all the fame. At this point, he said, “just get me in the door” of the NFL. He joked he’s not going to change his name over it and that he has nothing but respect for quarterback . When he makes the NFL, he’s hoping to play against the Ravens and swap jerseys with him. Unless, that is, he ends up being teammates with quarterback Jackson in Baltimore.
Cornerback Jackson did meet with Baltimore at the Senior Bowl, fielding questions and doing whatever he could to boost his draft stock.
“You can have both great Lamar Jacksons,” the cornerback said. “You know what I’m saying?”
“It’s in the name.”
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