CLEMSON — What does a quarterback who as a true freshmen led his team to a perfect 15-0 season and a national title focus on during the spring practice session?
For Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, it was simple: He wanted to become a better leader.
The front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 was thrust into the role of quarterback last season after former Tiger Kelly Bryant left the program after losing the starting job after four games. While Lawrence had the respect of his teammates, he felt like he was not the leader they needed because he was so focused on learning the offense and all of the other things that go with being the quarterback at a program like Clemson.
“I feel like you focus on things a little differently as far as like, leadership is a big thing this spring for me that I wanted to work on as opposed to last spring,” Lawrence said. “You know, just getting here and trying to learn the offense and do all that stuff. Still trying to play the best I can, obviously, but focusing more on leadership this spring.
“I feel like I have taken a step forward. I wouldn't say it's my best spring that I feel like I could've had, but I think I learned a lot and got better for sure, just with leading, for one, and then just with the new guys it was ... at first we had to kind of get our timing down and all that with all the new receivers and all that stuff, so I feel like we got a lot better, though, as a team, grew closer together, so it was good.”
Lawrence had the elation of winning a national championship in his first season at Clemson, but with that incredible moment came the microscope of being the face of college football.
Whether it is his flowing blond hair or his sheer physical stature or the fact that he became the first true freshman to lead his team to the national title since 1986, the fact is that this spring was different.
“It's just been a lot different,” Lawrence said. “It seems like it was not too long ago, we were just playing last season, and now we're already finishing spring, so it's flown by, but yeah. It's been a little different, but I feel like once you get out there, it's the same thing, you know. Trying to practice and get ready for the season.”
That kind of “windshield mentality” is a direct result of head coach Dabo Swinney, who believes, regardless of the successes and as hard as it may seem after winning their second national title in the last three years, the best is still yet to come.
“It's tough at first. That's an awesome moment,” Lawrence said. “You don't really want to let that go, but it's like Coach Swinney says, “The best is yet to come,” and we really do believe that in everything we do, and just trying to work and be even better than we were last year, so it's just ... that's kind of ... what we're trying to do right now.”
The main reason that it may be so easy to maintain that focus is that Lawrence understands the weapons he has on offense.
Whether it is the running game that is led by Travis Etienne, who finished seventh in last season’s Heisman Trophy voting, or a bevy of wide receivers, led by rising sophomore Justyn Ross and rising junior Tee Higgins, there are plenty of reasons for Lawrence to be looking ahead to the 2019 season.
“We got a lot of playmakers. I mean, obviously the new guys, Frank (Ladson) and Joe (Ngata)—they had a great spring, and Travis had a good spring,” Lawrence said. “Tavien (Feaster), Lyn-J (Dixon), those three guys had an awesome spring, got a lot better … We’ve had a good spring kind of just learning from each other, encouraging each other, so it's been really good.
“That’s a lot of good guys right there.”