TORONTO — Nestled inside Donovan Mitchell’s locker was a No. 8 Baltimore Ravens jersey ahead of the Utah Jazz’s tip-off against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
The second-year Utah Jazz guard understands what it feels like to be in Lamar Jackson’s shoes as a rookie leading the way on a playoff team.
That’s why Mitchell’s message to Jackson, his former University of Louisville classmate, was more encouraging than anything on New Year’s Eve.
“Just told him I was happy for him,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell was in the exact same spot with the Jazz last season, as they shocked many with a first-round upset against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mitchell became the first rookie to lead a 45-plus-win team (48-34) in scoring since the San Antonio Spurs’ David Robinson in 1989-90.
On Sunday, the rookie quarterback will look to lead the Ravens past the Los Angeles Chargers in a wild-card matchup, while also trying to end a 0-7 drought among first-year signal callers to start a postseason game.
Mitchell is certainly pulling for him.
“It’s kind of a similar situation with what I had last year as far as just kind of blowing up,” Mitchell said of Jackson. “He had a lot more in the spotlight because of the Heisman, and people really didn’t think he was going to be what he is, but for him to be here in this spot, I think he’ll win this week, and I think he’ll continue to prove people wrong.”
Both Mitchell and Jackson arrived at the University of Louisville’s campus during the summer of 2015 as true freshmen and developed a tight bond ever since. Jackson has drawn much attention lately with his raw talent, 6-1 record since becoming a Ravens starter and leading the franchise to a division title on Dec. 30 with a 26-24 victory against Cleveland.Comment on this story
Against Los Angeles, he will become the youngest starting quarterback in the NFL’s postseason history at 21 after being heavily criticized initially during the draft process about if he could even play the position on that level.
“It’s kind of funny that people said he was going to be a wide receiver and people said he wasn’t going to be a quarterback, and for him to prove everybody wrong by going 6-1 and make it to the playoffs it’s so heartwarming,” Mitchell said. “A kid that I’ve obviously went to class with, I’ve known since college. It’s pretty special for me to see that in him, and he’s doing it in his own way. His teammates have his back.”