His ties to the area run deep with his mother, Amanda, a Daniel Boone High School graduate who met his father, Jeremy, while at ETSU. His older brother Chase was born in Johnson City and Trevor in Knoxville. They lived in Washington County before his family moved to Cartersville, Georgia. As a high school player, Lawrence became the nation’s top quarterback recruit, ultimately deciding to attend Clemson.
After supplanting Kelly Bryant as the Tigers’ starter as a true freshman this season, Lawrence was named Atlantic Coast Conference freshman of the year. With another East Tennessee native, Tee Higgins of Oak Ridge, his favorite target, Lawrence’s passing numbers for the season are 212-of-326 (65.0 percent completion rate) for 2,606 yards with 24 touchdowns and four interceptions.
With Clemson No. 2 in the College Football Playoff selection, Lawrence is scheduled to lead the Tigers (13-0) against No. 3 Notre Dame (12-0) in a national semifinal in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29.
In this exclusive interview, Lawrence, a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s top quarterback, recalls his early memories of living in Washington County, reveals how quarterback wasn’t his original position and what it’s like to play for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
What do you remember about your early years in Washington County?
Lawrence: “I lived in Fall Branch, and so did my grandma and uncles. My grandma lived on a horse farm there, so I was out there a lot during my childhood. I remember always playing around with my brother and my cousins when we were there each summer for a few weeks, and it was always fun.”
When did you first play football, for what team and memories of that?
Lawrence: “I first played football when I was 6, and I played on the offensive line. I was playing with 8-year-olds, and I was the smallest guy, so they didn’t know that I could throw the ball or anything like that ... so I was on the offensive line. That was on a rec league team in Cartersville, Georgia. The next year, I started playing quarterback, and that’s what I’ve done pretty much since then.”
Who were your favorite football players growing up and what did you like about them?
Lawrence: “Growing up, my favorite quarterback was Peyton Manning. Now, one of my favorites is Aaron Rodgers, but with Peyton Manning, I liked the way he played, and how smart he was. He knew what was going on all around him and had total control. I used to be a Tennessee fan, and I grew up watching him after my family got me going on Tennessee. One thing that I’ve tried to do like him is just wanting to be the guy that knows everything and take control of the offense like he did.”
What’s it like playing for one of the nation’s top coaches in Dabo Swinney?
Lawrence: “It’s awesome. He’s a great coach … a player’s coach. He has a perfect balance of knowing how to let us have fun but also teaching us how to work hard. He’s a great guy, and he’s easy to play for.”
Where have you improved most as a quarterback over your freshman season?
Lawrence: “I would say my leadership ... building stronger relationships with the guys. I can lead now from a little bit of a different role from when I first got here, and I’ve matured into that and grown into my role. I’ve been able to prove myself a little bit over the course of this season, and I’ve gained the trust and respect of everyone, and that’s helped me to lead them.”