NEW ORLEANS — Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence remains content to enjoy the moment. Perhaps those wondering if his college career should end a year early should do the same.
The sophomore quarterback again squashed the notion that he would consider sitting out his junior season after Clemson plays in the College Football Playoff championship game against LSU at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday. Lawrence made it clear he plans on coming back for his junior season no matter what happens.
“I’ve never thought about sitting out,” Lawrence said at Media Days at the Xavier University of New Orleans Convocation Center. “I don’t want to do that.”
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Lawrence, of course, cannot enter the NFL Draft until 2021 — and he has been projected as a No. 1 pick since taking over the starting job for the Tigers in 2019. Lawrence is 25-0 as a starter, one game away from leading Clemson to back-to-back national titles and being considered a generational quarterback prospect in the vein of John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck.
That has led to the narrative that was tossed around with South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney and LSU’s Leonard Fournette in recent seasons. Given the potential life-changing money at stake, should he consider sitting out his junior season and focus on preparing for the next level?
“I think it’s just people that don’t understand college football and what I came here to do,” Lawrence said. “To be a part of a school like Clemson and a team like this is very special to me. I wouldn’t throw that year away to just sit out in case of injury or whatever it may be.”
One could argue that Lawrence does not need to play another year in college and point to Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, who won a national championship as a freshman and finished second in the Heisman Trophy race as a sophomore. Tagovailoa, of course, suffered a season-ending hip injury as a junior before declaring for the NFL Draft on Monday.
“People don’t understand the position that we’re in, and it’s not just about money,” Lawrence said. “It’s about being a part of a team and enjoying the guys that have been here the last few years.”
That is where the narrative should stop. This is Lawrence’s decision. It’s OK to question the NFL’s rule that requires three years of college before entering the draft, but the same could be said about the notion of an athlete sitting out of competition for a full season. Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott presents a strong case against that.
“I don’t understand why anybody would tell somebody to forego an opportunity they’ve dreamed about their whole life,” Elliott said. “Trevor dreamed about playing college football his whole life. He understands — he wants the NFL, he probably dreamed about that, too — but he understands there is a process. That’s robbing a young person from a natural progression in life.”
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Elliott doubled down on that for those who do not understand what the five-star quarterback wants to do with his time left in college. Even if Lawrence chose to sit out a year, would that guarantee NFL success?
“That’s just selfish from an adult to tell a young person that,” Elliott said. “You need that natural progression. Now, if he finishes his junior year and he’s eligible to go in the draft because those individuals say that’s the amount of maturity that we want to see before we accept you into our league, then make the decision then.”
It also short-changes what college football fans have been able to witness the last two seasons. With a victory Monday, Lawrence would have the chance to lead Clemson to a third straight national championship as a junior. With a loss, there is still the chance to play in three straight national title games.
The Heisman Trophy is still out there, as well as the rare opportunity to be considered one of the greatest college football players of all time. There is money in that no matter what happens at the next level.
That is the place where Lawrence seems the most content right now. He has his future figured out, and that is the way it should be for student-athletes.
“I am enjoying the moment where I am right now, and realizing that I have at least one more year, maybe two,” Lawrence said. “It’s not that close yet. I’m enjoying where I’m at it. This time is very special for Clemson and college football. … If you look too far ahead, then you’re going to miss out on the joy of this moment.”
That is good advice for those suggesting he should sit out.
They are missing out the most.