Presumed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence talks Jaguars' Urban Meyer, why he was intent on doing Pro Day

Jori Epstein

Trevor Lawrence grinned as his Pro Day workout came to a close.

“Yeah, yeah, I saw him,” Lawrence told ESPN when asked about Jaguars coach Urban Meyer hovering. “Saw a lot of the guys coming through. Just waved at him real quick. Obviously can’t really communicate out here.”

Even within the confines of nonverbal communication, the message was clear.

Jacksonville, who hired Meyer out of retirement last month, owns the No. 1 overall selection of the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence, a 2020 Heisman finalist who led Clemson to the 2018 national championship as a freshman, is widely expected to land in Jacksonville under Meyer’s tutelage. The marriage is natural, sending a top prospect to the neediest team and pairing a three-time college football champion coach with a college-champion quarterback who can maximize his system.

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So why bother staging a Pro Day in the first place? And why now?

“Just to show I’m no different than anyone else,” Lawrence said. “I still want to do the process the right way.”

In three seasons at Clemson, Lawrence completed 66.6% of passes for 10,098 passing yards, 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He was scheduled to join Clemson’s Pro Day on March 11 – the NFL scouting combine was cancelled this year due to COVID-19 restrictions – but is instead readying for surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder. Lawrence projected he could throw six to eight weeks after surgery and receive full clearance within four to six months.

Trevor Lawrence warms up before the 2021 College Football Playoff semifinal.

With the 2021 NFL season under seven months from kickoff, time was of the essence. So Lawrence moved up his Pro Day workout a month, prepared with quarterbacks coach Jordan Palmer in California for about a week, then headed back to South Carolina to rehearse timing and routes with receivers, including Clemson’s Cornell Powell.

Lawrence donned purple dry-fit Clemson T-shirt, an orange nameplate spanning his shoulder blades with his number “16” ironed on beneath it. A script of dozens of throws followed, ranging from slants to deep throws, incorporating dropbacks and pressure in his face. Lawrence cycled through a would-be busted play on a curl route, shaking loose and extending the play to demonstrate his ability to throw on the run down the field. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney watched on from mere feet away. So did Meyer, in animated conversation with Swinney. Lawrence wasn’t fazed.

“It was a good day, considering kind of short notice,” Lawrence said. “I was pretty pleased with it. Like anything, you’ve got some throws you wish you could go back and hit a little bit better. But as a whole, I think it was good day.”

Next comes Lawrence’s surgery to repair his left labrum, per ESPN, then a rehab period during which Lawrence said he’ll grind physically to recover as efficiently as possible and mentally to continue deepening his understanding of the game. Lawrence noted his footwork, comfort in the pocket and pocket presence as areas he wants to improve physically. Mentally, he anticipates more nuanced gameday responsibilities at the professional level, including a need to advance his defensive recognition.

“Just really excited for that challenge. I love learning,” Lawrence said. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the game. It’s such a fun thing to learn a new system and piece everything together so I’m excited about that.”

He’ll take rehabilitation in stride with the poise and even keel he exemplified in three years at Clemson, from his freshman year title run through his hastily-assembled Pro Day. Sure, he hoped his Friday workout demonstrated his athletic acumen for the collection of coaching, general managers and scouting representatives who traveled Friday to Clemson. But even more so, his decision to throw and measure despite the surgery and his strong draft stock aimed to show his flexibility.

“Life happens sometimes,” Lawrence said. “So just having to adjust and showing I’m able to adjust and adapt and still come out here and throw and give teams a chance to see me.

“That was important to me.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter, @JoriEpstein