TREVOR TOWN: How Cartersville, Ga., shaped Lawrence, the Jaguars' likely No. 1 NFL draft pick

Gene Frenette
Florida Times-Union
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To this day, 69-year-old Robert Allen shakes his head at the timing of it all. How did he get so lucky?

Trevor Lawrence with his family after a Cartersville High School football game. The quarterback is pictured with his mother, Amanda (left); father, Jeremy; older brother Chase and younger sister Olivia.

In 2005, Jeremy Lawrence introduced himself to Allen as he was about to move his wife, Amanda, and then two sons into the same Cartersville, Ga. subdivision (Shaw Woods). Then six years later, Lawrence’s youngest boy shows up at Allen’s middle-school physical education class slinging a football like nothing he had ever seen before.

“In sixth grade, he was nearly as tall as me, and I’m 6-foot-2,” said Allen, who served as head football coach at Cartersville Middle School from 2007 to 2017. “The impressive thing about him was he didn’t try to show off with [his arm]. He was just smooth. He wasn’t overbearing, helped the other kids in the class, just acted like a normal kid.

“I’ve thought about that several times, how strange it seems to look back at it now, not having a clue then about what would happen in the future.”

Allen only uprooted from his native North Carolina in 1999 and moved to Cartersville so he could be closer to his grandchildren. He had no idea fate would lead him to coaching Trevor Lawrence for two championship seasons in middle school, launching a football legend that Allen became convinced would come to fruition.

QB Trevor Lawrence in a team photo as a seventh-grader at Cartersville Middle School. He led the Purple Hurricanes to middle school championships in 2012 and 2013.

It didn’t take long for someone who had coached football for 40 years to figure out this Lawrence fella, now 21, was different than everybody else in pads and a helmet.

“His eighth-grade year, I told friends back in North Carolina, ‘he’s one of these kids we’re going to see play on Sunday. Believe me, he will,’ ” said Allen.

Nearly a decade later, that same Knoxville-born kid who once sported a buzz cut and still wears No. 16 (mostly paying homage to Peyton Manning), has long since transitioned to long flowing hair down to his shoulders. Those locks now make the 6-foot-6 Lawrence instantly recognizable wherever he goes.

Of course, the best NFL quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck doesn’t belong to just Cartersville any longer. Lawrence’s burgeoning celebrity has expanded far beyond the community where he grew up 40 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta.

The player generally regarded as the country’s top recruit after his sophomore year at Cartersville High, where he won two state titles, lived up to the billing during his three seasons at Clemson. He led the Tigers to a national championship as a freshman, then two more CFP appearances. And in two months, the Jaguars are ready to make him the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, just like Manning was in 1998.

It’s been a whirlwind football journey, one filled with a near-perfect resume of winning, constant adulation and a well-earned reputation for treating people the right way.

But to get a genuine picture of what Lawrence is like on and off the field — how his popularity blew up into something that may soon fetch him millions of dollars in marketing opportunities — it’s probably best to let the people who knew him growing up in Cartersville (pop. 21,760) tell the story.

For no matter what happened at Clemson, or how his NFL career and life will evolve over possibly the next 10-15 years in Jacksonville, it’s the original Trevor Town that made Lawrence into who he is.

Meet the parent 

When Joey King was named the new Cartersville High coach in March, 2014, he assembled players from the middle school in a get-acquainted session because nobody knew much of anything about the assistant coach hired from Carrolton (Ga.) High, located more than an hour away.

By that time, King was well aware of the eighth-grade stud quarterback. So he arranged to meet with Trevor’s father, Jeremy, at his office to alleviate any concerns about the coach who was replacing a longtime fixture in that job, Frank Barden.

At Carrolton, where King recently returned as the head coach after working one season as tight ends coach at South Florida, they ran a Wing-T offense in his first stop there. It was the polar opposite of Lawrence’s natural strength, leading a spread attack with run-pass options.

“There was probably some speculation I’d come there and run the Wing-T and I wanted to address that right away,” said King. “That was not my offense [at Carrolton], that was my boss’ offense. I just wanted Jeremy to know who I was and how we were going to do things.

“I only promised his Dad a chance to compete for a spot. That’s all we guarantee anybody. There was no way I was going to say he was going to start by a given day.”

Trevor Lawrence received the Underclassman Award at MVP camp as an eighth-grader, before he began his high school quarterback career in Cartersville, Ga. [Provided by Rusty Mansell]

No, but Lawrence was one of only three eighth graders that King invited to join the Cartersville High ninth grade and junior varsity teams for spring practice in 2014.

“It didn’t take long to see that Trevor was not going to be playing on the freshmen or jayvee team,” said Cartersville athletic director Darrell Demastus. “He was going to start on varsity.”

Replacing future Alabama star Miller Forristall

It didn’t happen immediately. But by week 4 of the 2014 season, two weeks after a 27-26 loss to North Cobb, the decision was made to move junior starting quarterback Miller Forristall (6-foot-4, 190 pounds), then considered a decent college prospect with good athleticism, to tight end. Lawrence had been getting snaps in games, but now he was going to be the permanent starter.

“I didn’t get any pushback,” King said of the quarterback switch. “The community wanted to win.”

King, along with many people in Cartersville, remain effusive in their praise for Forristall, who went on to become the starting tight end at Alabama and is now considered a late-round NFL prospect. Forristall had little reservation about moving to a new position so the freshman phenom could begin his remarkable high school career.

Miller Forristall (87) went on to success for the Crimson Tide, but he got his career at tight end going because, in high school, Trevor Lawrence was ready to replace him at quarterback.

“When we called both of them in, Miller said, ‘I can’t make the plays Trevor is making,’ and Miller is a good quarterback,” said King. “It showed a lot of maturity on his part. I will tell the Miller Forristall story all my life. He fought his tail off to gain weight the last two years of high school.

“Everywhere he went, he’d walk around with a loaf of bread in his backpack and peanut butter in-between the slices, eating away to put on weight to be a tight end. Just an unbelievable kid.”

That’s pretty much what everyone in Cartersville has been saying about Lawrence, too, since he got to high school. Not just for packing Weinman Stadium (seating capacity 5,000) for Purple Hurricanes’ home games with his brilliant quarterback play, but for the affable, humble disposition a young teenager displayed in handling four years of celebrity status in his hometown.

Lawrence’s parents, both former high school athletes who met at East Tennessee State, deserve a lot of the credit. Jeremy, a safety/environmental manager at the Gerdau steel plant, and Amanda, a nurse practitioner, earn high marks from the townsfolk for how they’ve raised their three kids – including oldest son, Chase, a 26-year-old artist, and the only daughter, 9-year-old Olivia.

“I know most of his family and they’re all extremely nice,” said Tristan Carlton, a former Cartersville High linebacker now playing at Division II Shorter University in Rome, Ga. “They raised Trevor to be a good person.”

Jennilynn Hawn, who was Trevor’s AP World History teacher his freshman year, added: “He’s a normal every-day kid, like you’d never know he had all that talent and hype. You knew this day [heading to the NFL] was coming, but he never talked about it. I think he’s very grounded because of his parents.”

Cartersville head coach Conor Foster, who was promoted from defensive coordinator in 2019 after King left to take a coaching job at Coastal Carolina, remains grateful that his ex-boss took the initiative to meet with Lawrence’s father, which dissuaded him from any thoughts of enrolling his son at another school.

“Probably the best move of his career was going to Trevor’s parents right away and setting up a meeting,” said Foster. “He did us all a big favor on that one.”

Small town, big tradition

Cartersville, established in 1850, initially made its mark as a mining town, particularly ochre – used for cement pigmentation – and baryte, a sulfate mineral. A town of 29 square miles in Bartow County, it was also known for Etowah Native American mounds just south of town.

The world’s largest Coca-Cola sign, painted in 1894, is located downtown on Main Street, right on the Young Brothers pharmacy wall near the railroad track. Cartersville’s largest employers are Shaw Industries, a carpet manufacturer, an Anheuser-Busch brewery, Toyo Tires and Cartersville Medical Center.

But the fervor for high school football — as in other Georgia towns like Valdosta, Buford, Thomasville, Calhoun and LaGrange — has been a staple in Cartersville since 1912. That passion has ratcheted up in the last 30 years, which has produced four state titles and an NFL alumni list featuring former defensive tackle Andre Fluellen (Florida State) and a running back stable of Ronnie Brown (Auburn), Keith Henderson (Georgia) and Robert Lavette (Georgia Tech).

Brown, a No. 2 overall draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2005, was Cartersville’s biggest football hero before Lawrence, leading the Hurricanes to their second state crown in 1999. There’s little doubt in a football-rich state like Georgia, which has been spitting out big-time quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson, Justin Fields and Jake Fromm in recent years, that Lawrence has put himself in an exalted place.

It’s not just his state-record 13,902 passing yards and 162 touchdowns. It’s the way Lawrence took Cartersville on a four-year joy ride — with a record of 52-2 as a starter — that is sure to have many of its residents talking about him for decades to come.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said former Cartersville starting guard Bryce Wilkins, now playing at West Georgia College. “Every Friday was so fun playing with guys we’ve known all our lives. It’s hard to explain. Playing with Trevor for three years, just the memories and laughs, it was awesome.”

Few people in Cartersville got more joy out of it than Matt Santini, the town’s mayor since 2008. He’s been announcing the Hurricanes’ games on WBHF (100.3 FM) since 1999, the last state title team before Lawrence took them to back-to-back crowns in 2015 and ’16.

“There’s been nothing like it,” Santini said. “This school has a long history and is proud of its football tradition. In 1999, it was a great team with great players, but it wasn’t the national interest Trevor brought to our community. It’s given us an opportunity to showcase Cartersville to the world.

“The town was filled with purple No. 16 jerseys, then orange No. 16 jerseys [for Clemson] and I’m sure it’ll be teal No. 16 jerseys [for the Jaguars] very shortly. Trevor just brought a lot of positivity to the community.”

Trevor Lawrence signs autographs and poses for photos with children after a Cartersville High School football game. [Provided by Lawrence family]

Impact beyond football

As extraordinary as Lawrence was as a quarterback and leading his teams to championships, most people in Cartersville don’t embrace him as much for his on-field talent as his character and friendly demeanor.

Many also liked that his aptitude extended well beyond learning a football playbook.

David Matherne, a retired high school teacher, had Lawrence as a student for English as a freshman and sophomore. He had about 30 kids in his class. They were required at times to make presentations about books. He distinctly remembers making a game in class out of the George Orwell novel, “Animal Farm,” a fable that reflected events leading up to the 1917 Russian revolution.

He remembers Lawrence, who carried a 3.8 GPA, often slumping down in his seat “so he didn’t seem so tall as the others.” Matherne could sense the star quarterback was not comfortable being in the spotlight during class, but it was clear Trevor liked the challenge of learning the material.

“I knew he was more than football,” said Matherne. “He grasped concepts very quickly. I wanted to isolate his mind to think about literature and his writing and his presentation skills because I knew he’d be in front of cameras in the future. There’s no false modesty about him. He’s so tall, but humble and graceful.

“He deserves all the accolades for his football, but when people get to know him, it’d be all those other things that stand out.”

Carson Murray, who played football with Lawrence from age 8 through high school, is part of Lawrence’s inner circle. The ex-linebacker will be a groomsman at Trevor’s wedding on April 10 to his high school sweetheart, Marissa Mowry. He’s part of a SnapChat direct messaging group of about 10 people, including Lawrence, that call themselves the “Bro Tacos.”

Murray, a geology major at West Georgia College (he no longer plays football), has more Trevor stories than he can possibly recall – giving teacher Hawn a hard time about giving candy on game days to just the quarterback and Forristall, bringing his Xbox to Lawrence’s house and playing games of Fortnite for hours after finishing math homework, hanging out in ex-teammate Joe Cabe’s big basement. Since Murray wore number 15 for the Hurricanes, his locker was right next to Lawrence.

“This group of guys, we’re going to be friends for the long haul,” said Murray. “Trevor doesn’t like being the center of attention. He’s very patient. He handled all the attention back in high school better than I would have. When he goes out with us, he’s always got a hoodie on. He kind of wants to be under the radar. He won’t take any credit for himself. He talked all the time about [football] being a team sport.” 

Wilkins, who attended private schools until transferring to Cartersville Middle School as an eighth grader, is grateful for all the championships his teams won with Lawrence as the quarterback. But that’s not what stands out as a lasting memory.

“People will go, ‘Oh, you know Trevor, how is he?’ “ said Wilkins, now playing at NAIA Reinhardt University near Camden. “He’s friendly and humble to all people. Once I finally got to meet him, getting acclimated to the football team in eighth grade, you could tell he was on a different level than everybody else.

“He was bigger than everybody, just his athletic ability, but he didn’t try to big-time people. He wasn’t a hot shot. I remember how he made me feel very welcome when I got there.”

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is pictured with the rod and reel his barber, Scott Holder, gave him for high school graduation at Hair Techniques in Cartersville. (Provided by Scott Holder)

Tall kid. But where's the hair?

Most any picture of Lawrence taken before he reached high school shows a tall, lanky kid with almost no hair. Outside of Cartersville, few would recognize the square-jawed quarterback if he didn’t have that blond hair down to his shoulders.

When he won an Underclassman Award at an MVP camp in eighth grade, an honor usually won by kids at least two years older, Lawrence sported a buzz cut while posing with his trophy. The next year, he won the same award and had shoulder-length hair.

As Trevor’s barber in Cartersville, Scott Holder, tells it, the buzz cut during his pre-high school years was usually given out by Rose Mayo, the mother of one of his grade-school friends. She gave the same haircut to her two sons and Lawrence, not a big deal at the time.

But during his freshman year of high school, Trevor and some of his teammates -- Tristan Carlton, Jake Richards and Murray -- decided they no longer wanted short hair. It bore out of a conversation in Carlton’s room, said Murray, resulting in the four making a bet that whoever cut their hair first would have to do a buzz cut.

Scott Holder, who has been cutting Trevor Lawrence’s hair since ninth grade, at his Hair Techniques salon in Cartersville, Ga. (Provided by Scott Holder)

“It just became a thing at our school to let our hair grow,” said Carlton. “My hair is [still] just as long as Trevor’s. A bunch of us just started letting it grow out.”

However, there was one minor issue. King, one of the more influential figures during Lawrence’s high school years, hated long hair. The former Carson-Newman player always liked his players being attentive to details and having short haircuts.

“I have a buzz cut. I have a lot of old-school in me,” said King.

Foster, then King’s defensive coordinator, saw potential trouble brewing with his boss once he noticed a few Cartersville players, including the star QB, started looking more like band members.

“Joey [King] didn’t think it was a good look,” said Foster. “I told him Trevor needed to keep it and be mindful of endorsement opportunities one day. Me, I’d let him have long hair, especially if he could sling [a football] like that.

“You got to pick your battles. We didn’t all want to be losing our jobs over a haircut. I wasn’t picking to go down over that one.”

Long story short: The Purple Hurricanes made it to the Class AAAA semifinals in Lawrence’s freshman season before getting hammered by Buford, 27-3, but there was a strong sense Cartersville would be a dominant team in the coming years. Once King’s team began a 41-game winning streak that next season, any drama over hair went away.

“Phases come and go,” said King. “I realized Trevor’s hair [length] wasn’t going to help or hurt the team.”

Holder, longtime friends with Lawrence and his family, attended nearly all of his high school games and went to three of Clemson’s four playoff games during his college career. He’s been cutting one of the more famous hairstyles in sports for nearly seven years. Holder gets the trim done in 15-20 minutes, pulling up Lawrence’s hair and cutting it with a point to give it a layered look.

“I don’t even shampoo it, I dry-cut it, generally taking about an inch-and-a-half off,” said Holder.

Unless Lawrence calls an unexpected audible, the buzz cut is never coming back.

As a freshman at Cartersville High School in Georgia, Trevor Lawrence won the Underclassman Award at MVP Camp for the second consecutive year. [Rusty Mansell/Provided]

Legend in the making

Nobody can definitively pinpoint a singular moment that propelled Lawrence into stardom. It was more a gradual succession of events, whether at camps or games, that showcased him along his football path.

When Lawrence started playing organized football in the Cartersville park and recreation U-8 league at age 6 — his first team was the Spartans — he was a lineman at 55 pounds. By ages 10 and 11, Lawrence began playing for the Acworth Warriors, lining up at defensive end, linebacker and safety, but somebody else usually played quarterback.

Once he got to middle school, Lawrence eventually settled under center and permanently began wearing number 16. By the end of his eighth grade year, the kid started turning heads.

Allen, his middle-school coach, was so impressed by Lawrence after he quarterbacked his team to a perfect 2013 season that he put together a CD of Trevor highlights and sent it to Georgia, Clemson and Alabama.

“Clemson was the only one that acknowledged they got the CD,” said Allen.

In January, 2014, Lawrence was part of a Georgia All-Star team loaded with future Division I players that won the FBU (Football University) national championship in San Antonio, which was then connected with the Army All-American game that showcased top high school talent.

“Oh, my gosh, that was a talented team,” said Jeremy. “That’s where things took off for him.”

Rusty Mansell, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports who lives 25 minutes from Cartersville in Rome, Ga., had never heard of Lawrence until his team won the FBU title. Two months later, Mansell’s company organized an MVP camp at Gwinnett Central High for ninth to eleventh graders, but allowed Lawrence to participate because he was a quarterback and wouldn’t have to deal with contact.

“I remember the high school kids going, ‘Holy crap, who the heck is this guy?’ “ said Mansell. “He measured 6-foot-2 ½, 171 pounds and just had a helluva day. Everything he threw was on the money.

“We give out a top underclassman award. That had never been won by a ninth grader and Trevor won it as an eighth grader.”

Lawrence won the same award the following spring of 2015, by which time college scholarship offers began pouring in, the first one from Colorado State.  

Once Cartersville went undefeated in Lawrence’s sophomore year, avenging the previous year’s loss to Buford with a 10-0 victory in the state finals, there was no stopping Trevor mania. Every Purple Hurricanes’ home game became a must-see event for not just Cartersville, but out-of-towners wanting to eyeball this quarterback sensation.

Darrell Givens owns the Capri restaurant, a breakfast-lunch place across the street from Weinman Stadium, where the ticket window is less than 100 yards from his front door. He usually closes his establishment at 2 p.m., but took a customer’s suggestion before Lawrence got to high school and kept his restaurant open until about an hour before Friday night home games.

“Trevor brought us a lot of business,” said Givens, who has attended nearly every Cartersville home and away game for over 20 years. “It was busy almost right up to closing time. That worked great for four years, but the next year, once Trevor left [for Clemson], it wasn’t worth staying open the extra hours.”

As much as he treasures Lawrence’s game memories, a real point of pride for Givens is the 8x10 picture of his favorite quarterback on the restaurant wall. Trevor signed it: “To Capri, Best of Luck, Trevor.”

“Somebody offered me $2,000 for that picture and I told him: ‘No, I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it,’ “ said Givens. “To me, he’s my hometown hero.”

Cartersville quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) is pressured by Thomas pass rusher Will Roberts (91) during the second half of the Class AAAA championship football game in Atlanta on Dec. 10, 2016.

Euphoria and letdown

For much of Lawrence’s high-school career, he was a frontrunner. The Hurricanes won his 52 starts by an average margin of 36.5 points, preventing Trevor from putting up gaudier passing numbers because King often inserted the backup quarterback before the fourth quarter.

One of the few games where Cartersville didn’t put an opponent away was a nationally televised ESPN game against Bartram Trail in his 2017 senior season. The Bears and future SEC quarterback Joey Gatewood (enrolled at Auburn, transferred to Kentucky) fell behind by 28 points early, with an overflow Cartersville crowd sensing another blowout.

Bartram Trail ended up making a furious comeback and was driving late to tie the game, only to lose 52-45. The game didn’t end until well after midnight due to lightning delays.

“Of all our games in high school, that one with Bartram Trail stands out the most because there was so much buildup,” Murray said. “It was national TV, it was Trevor vs. Joey. Our team stormed the field and celebrated.”

“Trevor was good as advertised, the complete package,” added Bartram coach Darrell Sutherland. “He could make any throw. There was one touchdown pass he made while moving, put it between two defenders on a rope. Another one from the left hash mark to the opposite side, he completed a long throw with no arc on it.”

But like his college career, where Lawrence’s only two losses also came in the playoffs, there were instances at Cartersville when his resolve was put to the test.

Mansell became sold on a promising future in the 2014 state semifinal 27-3 loss to Buford. Lawrence threw a pick-6 and took a vicious hit on the runback that required medical attention.

“The back of his helmet hit the ground, he got crack-backed,” said Mansell. “I remember the doctor and trainer waiting for him on the sidelines. Pretty soon, Trevor is pushing people off him and I could read his lips, saying: ‘I’m good. I’m good.’

“After the shot he took and going back in the game, that was the moment I thought this kid is something different.”

Two more comeback stories – one in victory, another in gut-wrenching defeat – at Weinman Stadium also attested to his perseverance.

In the 2016 state semifinals, heavily favored Cartersville lost two fumbles early and fell behind 14-0 to Mary Persons. Holder, the barber, recalled what happened next.

“Trevor went down the line of every player on the bench and told them: ‘We have plenty of time,’" Holder said. “It wasn’t that much later in the game, we were up 21-17. That showed me something about Trevor I had never seen before. He never feels like he’s out of a ballgame.”

A 30-yard, go-ahead TD pass might have been the best play sequence of Lawrence’s career to that point. The MP pass rush forced him to the right sideline, and Lawrence reversed field to buy time, making a couple defenders miss. He then fired a strike to Trey Creamer at the back of the end zone, giving the ‘Canes their first lead on their way to a 38-17 victory.

After the game, Mary Persons coach Brian Nelson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I just kind of shook my head and told our coaches upstairs, ‘Not much we can do about that.’"

The same could be said for Lawrence’s final high school game, a defensive battle with Blessed Trinity in a second-round playoff where he was sacked four times. Cartersville got a punt-return TD early in the fourth quarter to take a 17-14 lead, but missed a couple chances to put the game away.

Blessed Trinity got the ball back near midfield with one minute remaining, then scored on an improbable 28-yard pass into double coverage from Jake Smith, now an Air Force QB, to Ryan Davis with 12 seconds remaining. The stunning upset snapped Cartersville’s 41-game winning streak, while BT won its next three games to capture the state title.

Not surprisingly, the tears flowed freely among the players in a devastated locker room.

“And just like that it’s over. . an amazing 4 years with my brothers,” Lawrence tweeted two hours after the game.

Demastus described the postgame aftermath this way: “You would have thought the world came to an end. It was like a funeral afterwards.”

That was the night Tee Webb, two years behind Lawrence and the team’s backup quarterback, came to appreciate how big the shoes were he would have to fill.

“It was a definite shock. It took a little bit to soak up everything that Trevor was about to leave,” said Webb, now the quarterback at Southern Miss, who led Cartersville to the state finals and a 14-1 record the following season. “That night was a big realization for me that I got to throw my big-boy britches on and lead this team.”

Trevor Lawrence grew up attending Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, Georgia. [Marcel Louis-Jacques/Anderson Independent Mail/File]

Keeping the faith

As Trevor got older, particularly after he left for college, those close to him noticed how he’s become more vocal in his Christian faith, a path that began when he was baptized at age 9 at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville.

Jeremy believes his son’s strong Christian faith, nurtured through parental example and the influences of many people throughout his life, was a major factor in Trevor evolving into being a monumental presence on and off the field, just dealing with so much attention.

“I think it was a big factor, more than we realized at the time,” Jeremy said. “Being surrounded by family, friends, coaches that shared that [Christian] belief certainly helped. Coach King did a tremendous job in influencing him and keeping him humble. He’s a very strong Christian guy, wears it on his sleeve. That all helped shape Trevor. As the pressure came to mount in high school and college, that [faith] became a real foundation for him.”

Richard Brown, who lived next door to the Lawrences for 13 years during his tenure (2005-20) as Tabernacle Baptist associate pastor, feels a deep connection to the family and Trevor.

“His mom and dad instilled great godly character in him,” said Brown, who still lives in Cartersville. “As the years went by and he became more of a star, Jeremy helped Trevor by not letting ego get in the way. As he got to college, I think that’s where his faith began to grow and prosper. I’m incredibly proud of him.

“I’m so thankful God has given Trevor an incredible platform to share the gospel with people. The people in Cartersville just love Trevor. They know he’s got his head screwed on right.”

Midway through Brown talking on the phone, there was a pause as he got a bit emotional. He then told the story that, understandably, explains why he was overcome with emotion discussing Trevor.

On Jan. 21, 2019, two weeks after Lawrence led Clemson to a rout of Alabama in the national championship game, tragedy struck. Brown’s 23-year-old son, Lane, the middle child of his three kids, committed suicide.

Right before the four-hour visitation for his son began at Tabernacle Baptist, a grieving Brown was pleasantly surprised to see Trevor come by to pay his respects. He made the 154-mile drive from Clemson, but discreetly showed up before a bigger crowd gathered inside the church as he didn’t want to be a distraction on such a solemn occasion.

“I know Trevor was busy with school and classwork, so him driving to be with us, it was incredible just the way he handled himself,” Brown said. “He wanted to visit before the crowd got there. There was a line already waiting outside the doors.

“Trevor being there brought us all back to the early days when my kids and others in the neighborhood were playing together. It was very meaningful. The fact he drove all the way from Clemson because he wanted to be there spoke volumes for us. We will never forget that.”

Brown recalled the night before Lawrence left for Clemson, he and his wife went over to the Lawrence house to “pray for Trevor that he would be a witness for Christ” and grow in his faith.

He then followed lightheartedly, saying: “I feel like [Trevor] owes me one. He got a national championship out of our prayer.”

Staying grounded

When star quarterbacks attain the celebrity status of a Lawrence, it can be easy to fall into the trap of entitlement, which can lead to pitfalls.

During his teenage years, all the evidence pointed to the middle child of Jeremy and Amanda doing everything to resist bringing attention to himself. Lawrence fully understood, and accepted, that his football skills put him in the spotlight, though he never felt comfortable being singled out.

“I remember after football games, starting in his junior year, kids wanted him to sign every little football or a jersey,” Demastus said. “No matter how long it took, Trevor never left until he signed for everybody. He’s always been there for the people of Cartersville.

“He never acted like he was different than anybody else. He puts everybody before Trevor.”

When Lawrence goes to his favorite Cartersville dining spot, El Charro Mexican Grill, he usually orders the Pollo Con Crema dinner ($12.49) or lunch ($8.99) with beans, rice, lettuce and house sauce. Depending on the day, it could be a quiet dining experience at the corner table or something else if he’s waiting in line to get in.

“We never know when he’s going to be in,” said Sylvia Romo, who has owned the business since 2013. “The staff knows not to pressure him in any way and if he’s eating, most of the customers won’t approach him. But when he came in last month, it was a long wait for a table and that’s when people ask for his autograph or want to take pictures.

“He’s very shy about it, but he’s very friendly and respectful. He’s a wonderful person. He knows how to treat people.”

Mansell got a first-hand glimpse of Lawrence’s celebrity status when he showed up in July 2019 to work the national Top Gun camp in Rock Hill, S.C., along with other FBU alumni D’Andre Swift (Georgia), Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Derrick Brown (Auburn). Mansell sat at a Pump House restaurant table with those three future NFL draft picks, awaiting for Lawrence to arrive, and they went unnoticed. All four worked the camp as coach/counselors.

“Nobody blinked an eye when I walked in with those three guys,” said Mansell. “Then Trevor comes in off the elevator and you would have thought the damn Beatles had walked in. People are flying toward their phones to get a picture. One grown woman took a selfie with her and the back of Trevor’s hair.”

Yes, the limelight could be a bit insufferable at times. When Lawrence committed to Clemson in December, 2016, he received some “pretty hateful mail” at the school, according to King, from Tennessee fans. Another time, some male strangers in a van with Ohio plates waited for Lawrence after practice to sign things and take pictures.

“It was a chaotic time, but Trevor did everything he could to try and keep the circus from engulfing everybody else,” Demastus said.

“He never complained,” added King. “Trevor knew to whom much was given, much would be required. He understood what goes with notoriety.”

Lasting legacy

It’s been three-plus years since Lawrence played his last game at Weinman Stadium. Though Cartersville is still a powerhouse and has two state runner-up finishes the past three seasons, there remains a bit of longing for the football Camelot it enjoyed when No. 16 was rocketing to stardom.

“Everybody knew that team with Trevor was something special,” Damastus said. “The anticipation for Friday night was at an all-time high, excited about what the night was going to bring.”

With Lawrence as the starter, Cartersville averaged 43.8 points per game. Fans came up from Atlanta and other parts of Georgia, and down from South Carolina, to watch the golden-boy quarterback.

Games in Cartersville were like rock concerts, with Lawrence as the lead singer. Trevor was good for school morale and good for business. It’s no coincidence with ticket revenue hitting peak levels during Trevor’s four-year run, a new $5.8 million football complex got built in 2019 behind the north end zone. And no surprise that sales of reserved seats at Weinman Stadium dropped 40 percent the year after he left, despite the Hurricanes continuing to win at a brisk pace.

“He was a generational talent,” King said. “You don’t get to coach guys like that every day of the week, so we just enjoyed the ride.”

At some point in the future, Demastus intends to make sure everyone in Trevor Town remembers what a historical run the most popular player in Cartersville history took them on.

When Lawrence went off to Clemson, King stayed on for one more year and kept a couple of Lawrence game-worn, Adidas jerseys in his desk drawer. When King left, Demastus wasn’t taking any chances and had them locked up in the school’s central office.

“I was afraid with all of Trevor’s accomplishments in the future, those jerseys would disappear,” said Demastus. “I had the jerseys cleaned and vacuum-sealed so that the white on the jersey wouldn’t turn yellow.”

When the school feels the time is appropriate, maybe during a future Jaguars’ bye week, the number 16 jersey that hasn’t been worn since Lawrence left will be retired.

For the beloved, long-haired quarterback, who delivered cherished football memories and will forever hold a place in the hearts of Cartersville residents, that honor seems the least it could do for what Lawrence did for them.

Here’s what Foster says about the greatest run in school history: “We were way better coaches because of him. There’s nothing negative to say about our time with Trevor. It was fun and I’d go back there again.” (904) 359-4540

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