Trevor Lawrence poised to become the first No. 1 draft pick in Clemson football history
In a recent message he shared with young Greenville County schoolkids, Trevor Lawrence imparted words of wisdom that belied his 21 years.
“One thing I’ve learned is not to chase money or success or whatever, but do what you love,” Lawrence said. “A lot of people will try to convince you that success is making a lot of money.
“It might line up with your dream and work out great, but some of the happiest people I know aren’t the richest people I know. So I think just chasing happiness is the biggest thing.”
That may indeed be the case, but Lawrence is about to accomplish much of the aforementioned in one fell swoop.
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No. 1 pick that 'can do it all'
As the projected No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL draft, the former Clemson quarterback is about to make a lot of money while also making himself and a lot of other people happy, not the least of whom is new Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, who has been charged with rejuvenating the franchise.
By all indications, he’ll do so with a franchise quarterback.
“I’d have to say that’s the direction we’re going,” Meyer said recently when asked if Lawrence would be tabbed by the Jaguars when the draft unfolds Thursday night. “There’s a lot of boxes he checks. He can do it all.”
Meyer is far from alone in that line of thinking.
“He has everything NFL teams want in a starting quarterback,” said ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who is in his 37th year as an NFL draft analyst. “From size to arm talent to the ability to process reads and make the right throw.”
Former Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel, who closely followed Lawrence’s career as an analyst for the ACC Network, is impressed by Lawrence’s “sneaky athleticism.”
“Everything this guy does is going to translate well to the NFL,” Manuel said. “I’m excited to see how he takes off in his rookie year.”
Lawrence recently underwent surgery to repair the labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, but is expected to be fully ready for his rookie season. He held a personal “Pro Day” workout at Clemson on Feb. 12, four days prior to his surgery, to get a jump start on recovery.
Meyer was a fixture by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s side during that passing exhibition, which was impressive enough to perhaps cement Lawrence’s draft-night fate.
So what would the Jaguars be getting?
“They hope a generational quarterback who’s the John Elway, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck of this draft,” Kiper said.
Incidentally, those three are the only quarterbacks that Kiper has graded higher than Lawrence since 1984.
Not that Kiper is going out on a limb in his prognostication.
“He’s been targeted to be No. 1 since he was in high school,” Kiper said.
Despite being the consensus pick to be the first No. 1 overall draft selection in Clemson history, Lawrence announced last week in his typical low-key fashion that he’s opted not to be in Cleveland for the draft, but rather watch his selection unfold from Clemson, surrounded by family and friends, including his wife of roughly two weeks, Marissa.
How he'll view the draft
While most highly regarded players choose to be on site for the draft, Lawrence’s decision to view the draft remotely is not unprecedented. In fact, three of the last five quarterbacks to be drafted No. 1 have viewed their selection from elsewhere, including Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield in 2018 and Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 2015.
Last year’s No. 1 pick, Joe Burrow of LSU, had no choice in the matter as he was unable to attend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawrence’s decision to watch remotely will serve as a farewell to the school that he famously guided to a national championship as a freshman in 2018 and to back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020.
“I can’t believe my three years at Clemson went by so fast,” said Lawrence, the 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy runner-up. “And now I’m inching closer to my next stop.”
Although Lawrence has yet to sign his first pro contract, he’s already a collectible. The Topps Company, Inc., released a 50-card set featuring Lawrence on April 14; 20 of the cards featured artwork created by his brother, Chase, and sister-in-law, Brooke, who are professional artists.
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They drew inspiration for their card art from psychedelic period pieces from the 1960s and 1970s, which seems fitting given that Lawrence in many ways is a throwback to another era.
Highlight is his humble character
He’s not a “me first guy,” he respects opponents, refrains from being showy and demonstrative, and was perpetually laid-back in his approach while leading Clemson to victory in 34 of 36 games as the Tigers’ starting quarterback.
He remembers the two defeats, which he contends helped him grow as a player and a person.
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“I think everything happens for a reason,” Lawrence said. “There are always little things that you wouldn’t necessarily choose again, but it’s kind of helped make me who I am. They define you and give you better perspective.”
No one has seen this more often or with more clarity than Swinney.
“Trevor Lawrence is a generational guy,” Swinney said. “He’s going to be a great player for a long, long time.”
That’s precisely what Meyer and the Jaguars are banking on.