Trevor Lawrence leaves Clemson as one of its greatest players: a national champion, a record holder, a winner through and through.
That he is the best player available for the 2021 NFL draft has never been disputed – not this year, not the year before, and not the year before, when his performance in the College Football Playoffs national championship game against Alabama was true Newbie sent his stocks up and put the phrase “Tank for Trevor” in the dictionary.
His sheer dominance in that 44:16 win in Santa Clara, Calif., Did more than cement his status as future number 1 overall. It added even greater expectations for a player who already had astronomical expectations of him as a top quarterback prospect in high school.
Over the next two seasons, Lawrence continued to accumulate yards and touchdown passes and oohs and aahs as he perfected his game and added the quarterback run to his repertoire. While other quarterbacks made their own star turns, posting bigger and – in some cases – better numbers, Lawrence Clemson led the CFP as a starter in each of his three seasons.
No other quarterback can make the same claim.
The fact that Lawrence did it with increased expectations, with the pressure on the position, with the defense that turned him off week after week, speaks to his natural ability not just to throw a football but to lead with grace, character and humility. Finding a quarterback who matches what people want him to be in sophomore is rare. It’s even rarer to find a quarterback who does this without changing who he is or what he stands for, or breaking free of increased control and fighting as a result.
Lawrence did everything while remaining true to himself, his teammates, and his sport. When they needed him most in the summer, he answered that call. Twice. Lawrence helped his teammate and close friend Darien Rencher organize a school protest march with the Tigers Mike Jones Jr. and Cornell Powell after George Floyd’s death, and used social media to show his public support for them and the social justice movement to demonstrate. Then, in August, he was instrumental in the We Want to Play movement, the most famous player who called on college football leaders to allow teams to play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Players and coaches have repeatedly credited him with saving the season, although Lawrence was quick to divert credit.
Everything he’s done has shown with clarity that Trevor Lawrence knows who Trevor Lawrence is, and he’s never wavered about it – a rarity for any 21-year-old, let alone one who doesn’t just serve as his team’s face . but all that college football.
He made himself available to answer every question without crouching or shy away – traits that will serve him well when he moves to the NFL, where criticism of his game begins after he officially signed up for the draft registered. What awaits him will be the greatest challenge of his career: The Jacksonville Jaguars are number 1 overall and have lost 15 games in a row. It’s not just his successful ancestry, but also his leadership, personality, and keen understanding of his role as the face of a franchise business that have led him not only to help out in the field, but the culture in the dressing room too improve.
“All I know is that Trevor is the most successful quarterback in school history. He’s been in the playoffs three years in a row, he’s won three ACC titles, and he’s an incredible leader,” said Tony Elliott, Clemson’s offensive coordinator. “But the best thing about Trevor Lawrence that he may not get credit for is the type of young man he is. He’s all about his team. So that a young man was under the control he was under since he was went to high school to go to school to win at the level he won and never change, to challenge yourself to improve as a person – in my opinion, that’s what Heisman is all about. “
Lawrence embodies those ideals, no doubt, and there is no shame in finishing second in the Heisman vote with Alabama recipient DeVonta Smith. Lawrence was the favorite of the season and the early mid-season front runner, but after missing two games for testing positive for the coronavirus, Lawrence fell behind in the race while Smith showed up with his jaw-dropping ability to play.
It’s rare for Heisman’s favorites to win the award, and in this case Lawrence had shown us what he can do for three straight seasons. Rather than appreciating his NFL-enabled skills and his ability to perform throws that many professional quarterbacks just can’t do, it’s almost like Lawrence took it for granted for making everything look so simple. Was there. Seen that. Shrug.
Who goes 34: 2 as a starter, plays three times in a row in the College Football Playoffs, throws over 10,000 meters and scores 108 touchdowns in just three seasons?
Nobody but Lawrence.
Those are staggering numbers. Yet the ease with which he did everything week after week perhaps eliminated the wow factor that baffled everyone when he was a true newbie. His performance in the ACC championship game is the perfect example.
After testing positive for COVID-19, he had to watch from the sidelines as Clemson lost his first game to Notre Dame in November. Lawrence had a total of 410 yards and three touchdowns in the rematch win. His presence in the running game alone made a huge difference and allowed the Tigers to dominate from start to finish. But when Alabama and Smith took the field against Florida later that night, Lawrence felt as good as forgotten.
“Trevor has played at this high level since arriving and I feel like people are just used to it,” said Clemson recipient Amari Rodgers. “They only expect that from him, but they miss the consistency throughout his career. How well he can do at such a high level leads our team to victory every week.”
An ACC coach recently told me, “Trevor is the best player in college football. Statistics are so misleading. Trevor didn’t have to throw 500 yards and run 100 yards per game to win, but when he needed to.” he could have done that.
“It’s very rare that you find a man who can sit in your pocket and play the position as he can and then have the ability to run as he can. It’s scary. I think he plays the game faster this year than last year. His body looks like it’s twitching more. It looks like he’s moving faster. “
Lawrence was dedicated to becoming a better player after losing to LSU a year ago when he played poorly on his first career loss as a starter – a complete counterpoint to what we saw in his freshman year. It was LSU, not Clemson, with the unstoppable offense of a quarterback who just couldn’t miss. It was amazing to see Lawrence fight as hard as he did, going 18 of 37 for 234 yards. His lone touchdown came on a run.
Despite the attempts that came with that off-season, Lawrence showed improvement. Elliott noted after Lawrence threw 400 yards in the first half against Georgia Tech earlier this season that Lawrence was simply enjoying the moment, playing loosely and freely, and being grateful that they all had the chance to play.
There is no doubt that Lawrence is one of the greatest players in school history. However, the exact assessment of its location is a little more complicated than it seems. There are people who believe his predecessor Deshaun Watson would be the greatest quarterback in school history because he established Clemson as the annual national title contender and paved the way for Lawrence to continue the tradition.
Lawrence ended his college career not to end the 2016 season like Watson did, but with coach Dabo Swinney, who hugged him on the sidelines after losing to Ohio State in the college football playoff semifinals. Both he and Clemson certainly envisioned something different this season. But for the second straight year in the playoffs, the quarterback on the other hand turned out to be the better game.
Afterward, Lawrence pointed out some of the mistakes he had made and said he wanted to get better with them, while adding that he had no regrets.
“I know I’m proud of the way I prepared, how this team prepared, and how we supported ourselves all year,” said Lawrence. “I have no regrets. There isn’t much that I would go back and change.”
There should be no regrets. Lawrence won championships and won more than any other Clemson quarterback, and he represented himself and his school the right way.
His place in history is more than certain.