University of Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander and quarterback Lamar Jackson were selected in the first round of the 2018 National Football League Draft Thursday evening AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The two first-round selections for the Cardinals are the second most in school history, one shy of equaling the 2014 draft, when three players went on the first day.
Alexander was selected at No. 18 by the Green Bay Packers with Jackson going to the Baltimore Ravens with the No. 32 pick. Alexander is the third defensive back in school history to be selected in the first round, joining Calvin Pryor (2014, New York Jets) and Lenny Lyles (1958, Baltimore Colts), while Jackson is the second quarterback taken in round one.
“To have a pair of first-round draft picks is incredible for the University of Louisville football program, but I’m even more excited for these two fine young men,” head coach Bobby Petrino said. “Both of them are special people who were excellent leaders for our team. I know they will each be an asset to the organizations that drafted them and I wish them great success in the National Football League.”
A Louisville player has been taken in the first round in four of the last five years, with 15 first-round selections in school history. Seven of the school’s first-round picks have come in the last five years, including Calvin Pryor and Marcus Smith in 2014, DeVante Parker in 2015, and Sheldon Rankins in 2016. The seven first-selections are the third-most in the NCAA since 2014.
Alexander played in 31 games in his career, earning second-team all-ACC honors in 2016 and honorable mention accolades last year despite missing seven games. The Charlotte, N.C., native finished 2017 with 19 tackles, four pass break-ups, and one interception in just six games. Alexander finished his career with seven interceptions and 15 pass break-ups along with 77 tackles.
“Jaire Alexander is a tremendous competitor who was able to shut down one side of the field with his speed and ability to play the game with great technique,” Petrino said. “He brought a lot of energy to our football team and worked hard every day to become a better player. I wish him much success at the next level.”
Alexander emerged as one of the nation’s top prospects after the 2016 after he led the team with five interceptions and recorded 39 tackles in 13 games as a starter. He totaled a pair of multiple-interception games, recording two in ACC contests versus Clemson and Virginia.
As a punt returner, Alexander ranks seventh in school history with 439 yards. He had a pair of 60-yard returns versus Florida State, including a 67-yarder for a touchdown in a 63-20 win.
In just three seasons, Jackson put his imprint on the Louisville program, becoming the school’s first two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, winners of numerous national awards and a two-time first-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection.
Earning college football’s most coveted award in 2016, Jackson – the youngest player to win the award –rushed for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns, while passing for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns. He set a school record with 5,114 yards of total offense, while accounting for a league-record 51 touchdowns.
“Lamar Jackson had one of the greatest collegiate football careers in the history of the University of Louisville and college football in general,” Petrino said. “His accomplishments will never be forgotten and will be hard to surpass. He’s one of the most explosive and dynamic quarterbacks that college football has ever seen, and I’d like to thank him for all of his contributions to our football program and wish him only the best.”
Playing in only 38 career games, Jackson broke or shares 42 school and seven conference records, while becoming the only player in ACC history to be named both the player and offensive player of the year in consecutive seasons. He climbed as high as sixth on the FBS career list for rushing yards by a quarterback.
One of the premier dual-threat signal callers in the nation, Jackson became the first non-senior in FBS history to rush for 4,000 yards and pass for 9,000 yards in his career. Jackson also is the only player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,500 yards and pass for at least 3,500 yards in a season – accomplishing it in 2016 and 2017.
The 2016 Maxwell, Associated Press, and Walter Camp Player of the Year honoree, Jackson finished his career with 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns, which ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, in school history. As a runner, Jackson set school records with 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns.
With his rushing touchdown in the TaxSlayer Bowl to Mississippi State, Jackson became the third player in FBS history to record 50 rushing and 50 passing touchdowns, joining Florida’s Tim Tebow and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.
Holding the ACC mark with an average of 346.7 yards per game, Jackson ranks second in ACC history and first at UofL with 13,175 yards of total offense. He led the nation in total offense this season with an average of 404.7 yards per game and was the first player to lead the conference in both rushing and passing in the same season.
The Pompano Beach, Fla., native was a starter in 33 games, guiding the Cardinals to 22 victories. He accounted for a school-best 119 touchdowns, which moved him into second place all-time in the ACC.
Closing out his career in 2017, Jackson finished with 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, while throwing for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The second and third rounds of the NFL Draft continues on Friday evening from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas with rounds 4-7 wrapping up the draft on Saturday.
Get all the latest information on the team by following @UofLFootball on Twitter and Facebook and General athletic news can also be found at Facebook.com/GoCards; Twitter.com/GoCards; and Instagram.com/GoCards.
by Rocco Gasparro