CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A year ago, Lamar Jackson shifted uncomfortably in his seat atop a dais in front of a small crowd of reporters. He was a soft-spoken sophomore coming off a rocky freshman season, and he was Louisville’s representative at the annual ACC Kickoff — in large part because head coach Bobby Petrino wanted to see how Jackson would handle the crowd. Public speaking was not Jackson’s activity of choice.
But a funny thing happened as Jackson answered a few softballs early in the day. He grew increasingly comfortable, smiled enthusiastically and joked with reporters. He began telling stories about football, growing up in Florida, never watching TV and his biggest fan: his mom. Pretty soon, he had the assembled media hooked, and when his time ended, the consensus was that Louisville had a burgeoning star on its hands.
That turned out to be a significant underestimation of Jackson’s future.
No, these preseason media shindigs don’t often provide much hard news, and few coaches or players offer up a noteworthy scoop in advance of fall camp. But occasionally, as was the case with Jackson’s debut at the podium last year, it becomes clear that a star is on the rise.
This year, Jackson will headline the ACC’s kickoff event, the reigning Heisman winner now an established newsmaker. But Dalvin Cook and Deshaun Watson will be absent from the proceedings, as will Ben Boulware’s makeshift Capri pants, so some of the glamour will be missing in 2017. Unless, like last year, a new star emerges.