Home > How Trevor Lawrence, nation’s No. 1 sophomore football recruit, survives the hype | USA Today High School Sports

How Trevor Lawrence, nation’s No. 1 sophomore football recruit, survives the hype | USA Today High School Sports

Trevor Lawrence is considered the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018 (Photo: 247 Sports)

Trevor Lawrence is considered the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018 (Photo: 247 Sports)

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – Joey King reaches into the middle drawer of his desk and pulls out a stack of more than 150 business cards wrapped in a rubber band.“These were all the college coaches who were here in the spring,” he says.

King, Carterville High’s football coach, says 24 coordinators and position coaches showed up on a single day at one point during the 15-day window the football team was holding spring practice at the school about an hour northwest of Atlanta. While each was evaluating multiple players, they all had their eyes on quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

At nearly 6-5 and 190 pounds with his blond hair peeking out from the back of his helmet, Lawrence is hard to miss simply by physical appearance. Watch him throw – even a little – and it gets harder to take your eyes off him.

“I say the same thing to every coach that comes in,” King says. “Coach, ‘Whatever category you want to ask me about, he’s the real deal.’ That’s all I can say. Good student, good boy, character is good. Strong arm. Good feet. Size, strength. There’s not a category that I can think of that I’m not satisfied with.’ ”

Despite all the attention from recruiters, Lawrence is only halfway through his sophomore season. He just turned 16 last week — including a birthday tweet from Cam Newton — and plans to get his driver’s license this week.

After winning the starting job five games into his freshman season and helping Cartersville reach the state semifinals, Lawrence was named the national freshman of the year. Last spring, 247Sports named him the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2018 and national recruiting analyst Barton Simmons says “he made it really easy on us.” He has 15 scholarship offers, a number that figures to multiply. He’s already been invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the one to be played in January 2018 after his senior season. When he went to Clemson for the game a few weeks ago, a picture of Lawrence in an orange raincoat popped up on Twitter.

It seems like it could be all so overwhelming – and it might be – but you can’t tell by talking to Lawrence.

During an interview with USA TODAY High School Sports in his coach’s office, Lawrence peppered most of his responses with “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” and showed the level-headed, calm demeanor that his coaches and teammates say he displays on the field.

“I don’t think about it too much,” he says. “Everybody who knows who I am is looking at me on the next level. I’m focused on what we’re doing here now. Sure, it’s pretty fun and I enjoy it, but you have to make it there and do what you’re supposed to do in high school first.”

Asked to boast a little about when he knew he had a chance to be a special player, he smiles.

“Maybe at 9 or 10 years old, I thought I could be pretty good if I could get it going,” he says.

The plan

Before the season, Lawrence, his coaches and father put together a game plan to deal with it all.

The first piece was limited activity on social media. Lawrence sent out a tweet before the season began that said he appreciated the attention from the media and recruiting analysts but directed all inquiries to King or his father. “For the next few months, my focus will be on academics and helping my team and myself prepare for Friday nights and winning a state championship,” the tweet said.

He has tweeted occasionally with highlights or messages about upcoming games. He also has tweeted when he was going to visit colleges. He went to the Tennessee-Oklahoma game in Knoxville, the Clemson-Notre Dame game at Clemson and returned to Knoxville this past weekend, where the Vols came from behind to beat his home-state Georgia Bulldogs.

But clearly, he knows what others want to talk about. Just last week, he tweeted, “Please don’t hit me up if all you’re gonna do is ask where I’m going … ”

He only does selected interviews. He’s is available briefly after every game to answer any questions but only talks to the media sporadically otherwise, about once every two weeks. The coaches have asked reporters who cover the team regularly to limit recruiting questions.

Though the starting quarterback, Lawrence fulfills team responsibilities expected of sophomores. The team held a community youth clinic worked by the upperclassmen, but the coaches told Lawrence that he was excused. Despite being a team leader in a prominent position, he is a sophomore and the sophomores weren’t expected to work the clinic. When he returns to the sideline – except when he’s talking to coaches or huddling with the offense – Lawrence stands with the sophomores.

The coaches and the Lawrences have also decided he will be somewhat restricted when it comes to camps and showcases. He has attended a number in the past year and will continue to attend them, but isn’t likely to stay beyond a day or two. The coaches and the family say they recognize some of those appearances help provide exposure for the recruiting rankings, but also don’t want Trevor to get worn down. King says there is a period after each season where they don’t want Lawrence to even pick up a football.“We don’t need him going to USC or anywhere and throwing 5,000 passes over four days,” Cartersville quarterbacks coach Michael Bail said. “He’s put enough on film that coaches can see him. He will go in one day and throw and then we want him back here in the weight room and spending time with his teammates.”

He also is mulling playing basketball depending on when the football season ends. There aren’t that many athletic 6-5 boys walking around the halls at Cartersville, and it will get him away from all football, all the time. King says he is a big believer in multisport athletes and would wholeheartedly support him if Lawrence wanted to play basketball.

“Everybody here is keeping me level-headed,” Lawrence says. “They don’t treat me any different and they shouldn’t. I’m working just as hard as everybody else. That keeps my head on straight. I’m just in high school like every other player.”

The goal in all this is to make sure Lawrence gets to be a kid somewhere amid the hoopla. Barring injury, he will have started more than 40 high school games before he gets to college.

“I tell him, ‘You need to do whatever you like to do when you don’t have a football in your hand.’ ” Bail says. “He’s going have to find a hobby because he does nothing other than play football.”

Bail says his biggest fear is that being a teenager will take a back seat to the hoopla.

“We had prepared for it knowing it was probably coming his way,” he said. “I preach to him every day, be humbled, we’re not going to worry the rankings, the hype. All we’re worried about is being better today than you were yesterday, being a great teammates and being a good student.

“The one thing I told him from Day One is, ‘We’re not going to put a dog and pony show on for anyone. We are going to go out and do what we do and not run circles for anybody.’ ”

Lawrence made it clear he’s in no rush, even if everyone else is. A commitment from him – especially an early commitment – would help any college bolster its class because players want to play with him. He concedes he has his eye on a several Georgia players whom he’d like to play with in college, although he correctly points out, “Their decision is their decision just like my decision is my decision.”

His only timetable is to be in position to enroll in college early so he can take part in spring practice.

“I think it’s important for a QB to get in and learn the offense and it will give me a better sense of starting early. That’s a goal for me is to start my first year,” Lawrence said.

As he gets better, he will only be more coveted at the next level.

“He’s a pro-style QB and he’s one of those guys we love, but he’s not statuesque back there,” Simmons, from 247Sports, says. “He’s got functional athleticism. He can move the pocket. He can throw to different platforms. He can improvise. He’s a big kid but can do it all.”