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Lamar Jackson becomes youngest winner in Heisman Trophy history

The kid was overwhelmed. He reached and grabbed for his composure. When the lights were brightest, he stood at center stage and performed like he’d never been there before.

Oh, well, what’re you gonna do? It was only an acceptance speech, not a last-ditch drive for a national championship.

Congratulations to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, winner of the 2016 Heisman Trophy. Only 19 — the youngest Heisman winner ever — Jackson deserved this honor. From start to finish, he was the most exciting and productive player in the country.

Jackson, a sophomore, passed for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns and — this is where it gets incredible — rushed for 1,538 yards and 21 scores. He is the 14th quarterback to win the award in the last 17 years, but Jackson is a standout among that group statistically. His rushing yardage is the all-time high for a Heisman quarterback. His total yardage (second) and touchdowns responsible for (third) also rank way up there.

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson accepts the Heisman Trophy Saturday night in New York. Clemson' Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield finished second and third, respectively. (Michael Reeves/Getty Images)

Jackson finished with 2,144 points in the voting and the sixth-largest cushion in Heisman history, which dates back to 1935. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson — a repeat finalist — was second, with 1,524 points. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook and Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers were a very distant third, fourth and fifth.

“I’m truly honored and humbled,” said Jackson. “I’m extremely proud to represent this class and the University of Louisville with their first Heisman Trophy.”

Jackson spent much of the rest of his speech backing up from the microphone and trying to calm his nerves while quietly talking to himself.

“Oh, man,” he said perhaps a dozen times or more.

But you know what? It real. It was unfiltered. It clearly wasn’t scripted by a professional. In some ways, it was a breath of fresh air. And when Jackson leaned forward, glanced down at his fellow finalists and, one by one, shared the same essential message with each of them — “I just met you, but I love you” — it was as sweet as could be.

My favorite Jackson stat: While other quarterbacks (wisely) slid feet-first to avoid heavy contact, Jackson (brilliantly) amassed 770 yards after contact. This is no tank-like Tim Tebow or Cam Newton we’re talking about. Jackson is a thin guy, but tough and fast as all get-out.

My favorite Jackson moment: the Clemson game. Even though Louisville lost a heart-breaker on the road to Watson and the favored Tigers, Jackson was so great in the second half, I’ll never forget it.

I might prefer to have the poised, polished, versatile Watson running my offense in a must-win game. But I’d prefer to sit back and watch Jackson make magic happen on any given Saturday.

For what it’s worth, my own ballot read (1) Jackson, (2) Watson, (3) Mayfield. That’s just how this one shook out.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com