Baltimore Ravens’ fans have been asking, “Who is Mike Jones?” after the team’s star quarterback interrupted an interview question following their playoff victory against the Tennessee Titans.
“Mike Joooonees!” Lamar laughingly shouted, in response to the interviewer sharing his name. But Jackson’s response referenced a very different person: the Houston rapper Mike Jones who cracked the Billboard charts in 2004-2005.
On the surface it seems nothing more than a playful soundbyte, but beneath lay a symbolic parallel between the star quarterback and legendary rapper.
Back then they didn’t want me
When Mike Jones’ NBA dreams didn’t pan out, he turned to his passion of rap, creating and distributing his own mix tape the old school way- handing them out by hand. It’s a formula built from hard work, hustling, grit, grinding, and believing in yourself.
However commendable, Jones would get clowned on and laughed at while handing out his music, often along with the dismissively posed question, “Who are you?”
It was a struggle for the dejected rapper, but his grandmother helped him turn that criticism into opportunity. As Jones explained in a 2007 interview:
“When you got 100 people that’s puttin’ you down and denying you and saying … you can’t do this and do that, you get to a point where you start to believe them.”
Jones’ grandmother told him to embrace the haters and began to use, “Who? Mike Jones!” as a trademark statement, proudly proclaiming his confidence in himself.
“My grandmother was the one pushing it and telling me I can do this and… coming up with me saying the “who?” and the name and all that. And people thinkin’ it’s a gimmick and some think it’s a marketing tool, but it was just game that I got from my Grandmother.”
How does it relate to Lamar?
Despite Lamar Jackson’s continued success, he’s faced the same type of penetrating criticism. The type that can break your spirit, crush your self-confidence, and impact your performance and success without someone there to lift you up:
- In 2014, in his High School’s championship football game, Jackson threw 2 interceptions en route to a 49-6 defeat, initiating rumors of not being able to win “the big game”
- In 2015, his freshman year in college, he led the Louisville Cardinals to a Music City Bowl victory, setting a rushing record with 227 yards.
- In 2016, Jackson led the Cardinals to a #3 ranking, won the Heisman Trophy (most outstanding player), Walter Camp Award (player of the year), and Maxwell Award (best all-around player).
- In 2017, Jackson was again a Heisman finalist, but never captured a College Football championship despite his personal accolades.
Even though he crushed QB records at Louisville, Lamar Jackson would face intense scrutiny entering the NFL draft. Critics like former Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian went on the record to say that Jackson was “Short and a little bit slight,” and claimed he would be better off as a wide receiver.
At 6’3″, Jackson stood tall in his confidence at the quarterback position: he declined to run the 40-yard dash to scouts. He would later say, ““Just me trying to prove my point. I’m a quarterback. That’s all.”
While the Rapper Mike Jones leaned on his grandmother, Lamar Jackson had his mother at this side, making her his agent going into the NFL draft.
In 2018, they didn’t want Lamar
Undeniably one of the most gifted athletes in the country, every single NFL team chose not to select Lamar Jackson in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL draft. Except the Baltimore Ravens.
Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens GM nicknamed “The Whiz” for his draft day magic, saw something special in Lamar. In his last year before retirement, Newsome left his continued fingerprints on the Ravens organization by believing in a quarterback that others wouldn’t.
Dressed to the nines, Jackson sat with his mother — waiting to be drafted — while team after team passed up the opportunity.
QB Baker Mayfield went #1 (Browns) , Sam Darnold at #3 (Jets), then Josh Allen went #7 (Bills), and Josh Rosen #10 (Cardinals). Twenty-one other players were then selected before the Baltimore Ravens chose Lamar Jackson with the last pick of the first round (at #32).
“Man, I’m glad I wore this suit,” Jackson exclaimed, “And all the teams that passed me up … there’s a lot that’s gonna come with that.”
In the playoffs, Ravens fans booed him
In the 2018 season, when Superbowl-winning franchise quarterback Joe Flacco went down with an injury, Lamar Jackson took over, setting a team QB rushing record in his first start.
He then led the team on a 6-1 stretch, which clinched an AFC North title, and a playoff berth. With that, Jackson become the youngest quarterback to ever start in an NFL playoff game.
That heartbreaking game was at home against the Chargers. I’ll never forget it, because I was there. Jackson was held to 25 yards passing late in the 4th quarter before his own fans, in his own stadium, started booing him relentlessly.
Why would you boo a rookie who rescued your team, brought them to the playoffs, showed so much promise, and simply had a rough game against a stellar opponent? It’s hard to understand, but Jackson faced tough criticism before.
He threw 2 touchdowns in 4 minutes to bring the Ravens within 6 points, but fumbled the ball on the potentially game-winning drive to end the Ravens’ season.
In 2019, He’s Just a Running Back
The entire off-season, the same idiotic Ravens fans who booed Jackson in the playoffs claimed he was better suited as a running back and demanded a replacement. But while these critics called Lamar a Michael Vick wannabe, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was busy redesigning the entire offense around Jackson’s unique skill set.
In the first game of the 2019 NFL season, Lamar Jackson torched the Bills for 324 yards with 5 passing touchdowns, famously quipping, “Not bad for a running back,” at the post game press conference.
He would then go on to absolutely destroy the entire league:
- NFL MVP
- 36 passing TDs – led the NFL, Ravens season record
- 1,206 rushing yards – Single season QB rushing record
- 7 rushing touchdowns – Franchise QB rushing record
- 3,000+ yards passing, 1,000+ yards rushing – First time in NFL History
- 6.85 yard/carry – single season record (150 attempts minimum)
Unfortunately for Lamar Jackson, he would again lose in the first round of the playoffs, reviving the critiques of talking heads who claimed he couldn’t win the big game.
In 2020, they didn’t want him
New year, new group of idiots criticizing Lamar Jackson with reckless abandon. Take for example this March 2020 commentary from former NFL player and current NFL analyst:
How about a few months later, when ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky said he would STILL draft the Jets’ Sam Darnold ahead of reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson?
Yet again, Jackson has proved his critics wrong- finishing the season with 5 straight wins, catapulting the Ravens into the playoffs, and defeating the Titans in the 1st round to crush his “playoff curse”.
What’s next? History would say lots of criticism from haters.
Many are predicting Lamar and the Ravens will lose to the Buffalo Bills, whose star QB Josh Allen was drafted 25 spots above Lamar. If the Ravens win, their next opponent will be either Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs or Baker Mayfield and the Browns- two quarterbacks who often get more credit and attention than Lamar Jackson. They’re both great QBs, but will Lamar ever get the respect he deserves?
Now he’s hot, they all on him
Lamar Jackson has proven the haters wrong every step of the way. Does he win every game? No. Does he have bad games? Yes. Does every player in the history of the NFL have bad games? You can bet Tom Brady’s Uggs on it.
Lamar Jackson’s entire football career is a repeating microcosm of Mike Jones’ song, “Back then,” where he so eloquently raps, “Back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.”
- Haters hate
- Lamar proves them wrong
- Rinse and repeat
It’s a great song with a chorus that plays like the soundtrack of Lamar Jackson’s career, and perhaps, the Ravens’ 2020-2021 Superbowl run.
Critics of Lamar Jackson have been proven wrong time and time again, so perhaps it’s better they keep their mouths closed and their eyes open while we all see if he can fulfill his draft day promise.
In the meantime, I can only wonder: if Lamar Jackson saw this article, would he be amused at the author’s name?