Clemson Tigers Trevor Lawrence Has Arrived After Championship Win

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Trevor Lawrence
SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates with the trophy after his teams 44-16 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

What were you doing when you were 19 years old? Enjoying university with your friends. Working two jobs. Dubious about the future. All seems normal for a teenager in this stage of their life.

Trevor Lawrence is no normal 19 year old. The Clemson Tigers starting quarterback had the opportunity to play in front of 75,000 fans at Levi’s Stadium on the national championship stage. Lawrence’s job was to try and dethrone the Alabama Crimson Tide, a team led by the successful curmudgeon known as Nick Saban. With a week to prepare, coupled with Coach Saban’s experience in these championship games, the task for Lawrence and the Clemson offense seemed daunting.

What would unfold on the football field during Monday night’s National Championship was nothing short of spectacular. The Alabama defense, particularly the secondary, could not cover the speedy Clemson receivers. Tigers wide receiver Justyn Ross owned the match-up with the Crimson Tide corners, generating six receptions for 153 yards and one touchdown. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s coveted sophomore quarterback who just missed out on the Heisman Trophy, couldn’t find his rhythm all night against a physical Clemson front seven.

In Clemson’s 44-16 rout of Alabama to give the school its second national championship in four years, it was Lawrence who was the driving force of this team. While most 19-year-olds would quake amidst the intense pressure and spotlight, Lawrence reveled the big stage. His 20/42, 347 yards and three touchdown performance will be viewed in football history as the beginning of a legend being born.

Football Always in Trevor Lawrence’s DNA

Before there was Lawrence the national champion, there was a young boy born in Knoxville, Tennessee. A city steeped in tradition and history, it is not a surprise that as a toddler, Lawrence would sport the No. 16 Tennessee Volunteers football jersey. A few years earlier at Neyland Stadium, it would be Peyton Manning wearing the No. 16. Volunteers fans across Tennessee, including Lawrence’s parents, would watch the greatness that Manning possessed every Saturday. Manning would become Tennessee’s all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns, winning 39 of 45 games as a starter. Lawrence wanted to be just like his idol Peyton.

At age six, Lawrence was already tossing a football around. When he reached middle school, there was already hype around the young quarterback. Expectations turned into a frenzy after Lawrence’s freshman year of high school in Cartersville, Georgia. He threw for 3,053 yards, with 26 touchdowns to seven interceptions. College coaches had put Lawrence on their radar, including Saban.

“Trevor has always been a special talent in my mind, and it doesn’t surprise me,” said Saban. “He’s got the right stuff as a person.”

Trevor Lawrence Shines Once Given Starting Job at Clemson

Lawrence committed to playing for the Clemson Tigers, graduating early from high school. But arriving at Clemson came with a quarterback controversy between Lawrence and Kelly Bryant. Bryant had been the quarterback that led Clemson to the National Semifinals in 2018, but there were questions about his ability to drive the offense, given his lackluster performance in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

By Week five of this past season, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney could not leave Lawrence on the bench any longer. Against Syracuse, Swinney made Lawrence the starting quarterback, a position that the freshman would not relinquish the entire year.

“Well, I mean, (Lawrence) was the best player, and that’s not a knock to dis Kelly Bryant — and I love Kelly Bryant, what a great player he is,” Swinney said. “But my job is to make decisions that put the team in the best possible path to win, and after four games he was the best player.”
From his very first snap, it was clear that the buzz for Lawrence from high school was translating into college. Playing 15 games, Lawrence threw for 3,280 yards, with 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions. In his first College Football Playoff game appearance against Notre Dame, the Tigers quarterback was once again unflappable in the spotlight,  going 27 of 39 for 327 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. A freshman isn’t supposed to be doing this. But Lawrence isn’t a normal freshman.
“He’s just so poised and he’s 6-6,” Swinney said. “He just sees it. And he’s got a gift of an arm.”

Trevor Lawrence Rolls On Tua and the Tide

One year ago, Lawrence was sitting on the couch watching Alabama take on Georgia in Atlanta at the National Championship. It was the first time that he, and the rest of America, were introduced to young Tagovailoa, who came in for Alabama to replace Jalen Hurts. The rest is history as Tagovailoa became an Alabama legend with his touchdown pass in overtime to secure the national championship for the Tide.

One year later, it would be Tagovailoa and Lawrence going toe to toe on the National Championship stage in Santa Clara. Tagovailoa came into the National Championship having a stellar season. He threw for 3,966 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. Alabama was third in the nation in points per game on offense (45.6), third in passing yards per game (323.6) and first in total points scored (684). Saban, known for his astute intelligence on defense, finally had an offense that could generate points with ease and limit turning the ball over.

The doubters thought that a freshman quarterback could not handle the pressure of the big stage to secure a championship. Tagovailoa had been there before and had won a championship, giving him the edge in experience over Lawrence. But on Monday night, it would be Lawrence that would outplay Tagovailoa. For a quarterback with so few turnovers during the regular season, Tagovailoa threw two costly interceptions, including one that ended up being a pick six. Lawrence would consistently show poise and calmness in the pocket, showcasing his ability to make clutch throws, particularly on third down where Clemson went 10 for 15 on the night. None was more impressive than Lawrence’s 74-yard bomb to Justyn Ross, which he caught with one hand along the sideline.

The Future is Bright for Young Trevor and the Tigers

When the clock struck zero and the players celebrated with joy, Lawrence could not contain his excitement. The long blonde haired teenager had become the second true freshman to capture the National Championship, the first being Jamelle Holieway of the Oklahoma Sooners in 1985. For all the rhetoric leading up to the game about this being the best Alabama team ever, the Clemson Tigers had become the first 15-0 in college football history. For Lawrence, the win was just part of the larger narrative, which was his ability to be brought in by the seniors of the Tigers and to feel connected to the Clemson family.

“This has been a team that I’ll never forget,” Lawrence said. “It’s just been amazing how driven this team is. Just these seniors, just taking me in,  dragged me along until I got my feet under me … they’re awesome people as well as players.”
For the second time in four years, Swinney had outplayed Saban to win a national championship. Since 2015, Alabama and Clemson are each 55-4 with two national championships split between the two schools. But given how dominantly Clemson played against Alabama Monday night, it would make a coach like Dabo proud to come away from this season with a championship.
”I mean, our guys had the eye of the tiger, but I’m so proud.” Swinney said, talking about Alabama. ”We were never in that conversation. But tonight, there’s no doubt. First 15-0 team, to beat Notre Dame and to beat Alabama to do it, this team won 13 games by 20 points or more and led by an unbelievable group of seniors, amazing group. I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”

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