Lamar Jackson talks about being the face of the program at Louisville; embraces the roll and is confident at ACC Media Days

CHARLOTTE - University of Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson has been front and center in the spotlight this week at the ACC Kickoff. Jackson said he understands he might be the face of the Cardinals' program and it's a role he's ready to embrace.

University of Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson said he remembers when he first heard coach Bobby Petrino selected him as one of two athletes to attend the ACC Kickoff at the Downtown Westin.

Jackson said he heard the news from linebacker Keith Kelsey, who was also attending.

"I was like, 'No way'," Jackson recalled. "I said, 'Media Day? I don't want to go there'. I knew I needed some help (with interviews). But I'm OK now. I'm comfortable and I'm just being myself."

And like he does so often on the field, Jackson stole the show at the ACC Kickoff.

Dressed in a brand new gray suite with a red tie - with white polka dots - and a large gold cross on a chain, Jackson was put through the gauntlet with more than 30 different interviews. The longest was a 40-minute stretch with the newspaper writers when Jackson said he just wanted to "be myself and smile."

"I’ve been having a lot of training on my interviews,” Jackson said while on stage in front of more than 45 camera. "How am I doing? I’m doing good? All right."

Jackson was doing just fine.

"We threw him in the spotlight," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said. "I could have easily said OK, he’s just a sophomore, let’s leave him at home and not put any pressure on him to come to media days. But I really feel like he’s going to be one of our marquee players, going to be the face of our program for a while. He needed to come and experience this and enjoy it, have a smile on his face."

Petrino might not have known how good Jackson was going to be in front of the media, but he sure knows on Sept. 1 what he's going to get from his sophomore signal caller. Jackson started last season as a true freshman as the backup to Reggie Bonnafon.

But was thrust into action in the opener against Auburn. He ended up playing in 12 games last season and started eight, but even Jackson said he "wasn't sure what I was doing," in the position.

"I really didn’t know any of the plays," Jackson said. "Coach put me out there and gave me certain plays that he thought I knew. He’d put me out there and I’d just stare down receivers. If it wasn’t open, I’d just run."

And just like he did with the media on Friday, Jackson was perfectly fine under center - even if he didn't know the plays.

Jackson carried 163 times for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns, including 226 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M. He also threw for 227 yards and two scores against the Aggies and for the season completed 135 of 248 passes for 1,839 yards and 12 TDs. He averaged 5.9 yards a carry and his longest run was 73 yards.

“There would be times you would say, 'He had no idea of that play, did he?'," Petrino said at ACC Kickoff. "And he would look around and find somebody to throw to."

Now, Jackson wants to show he's improved his game and matured on the field.

"I hit the books very hard since the end of last season," Jackson said. “I was like, 'I'm not trying to go out there looking like a freshman my sophomore year'."

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