Surprisingly, Dexter Lawrence’s 6-foot-5, 340-pound frame is not what you first notice about Clemson’s star defensive tackle when he comes into a room.
Though you might think Lawrence would be an intimidating person considering he is perhaps the biggest and most fit man in college football, that’s not the case. Lawrence’s big smile and gentle presence outshines his physical characteristics.
“He is a big ol’ teddy bear,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He is just a sweet kid. He has a great spirit to him.”
Lawrence’s teammates say it’s his gentle spirit that makes him so easy to get along with and so fun to play with. Sophomore defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who also has one of those down to earth attitudes and gentle spirits, says Lawrence is just so thankful to be in the position he is in that he never asks why to anything, he just does it.
Swinney says that’s just a part of who Lawrence is. People who don’t know him might think of him as this big football player who can do a ton of freakishly athletic things, but off the field he is just a kid who wants to please his coaches and teammates the best way he can.
“He is always smiling. I don’t think I have never seen him when he didn’t smile. I say, ‘Hey Dex!’ and he just smiled,” Swinney said. “He is just has a great spirit, and his whole family is that way. He is just a sweet, sweet guy, but he is just big and nasty on the field.”
Auburn’s offensive line does not think he is sweet. The veteran unit could not block Lawrence all night as he came off the bench to record 10 tackles and one sack in his college football debut.
“That guy is just a freak. He is a man-child. There is really no other way to describe him,” Wilkins said. “He can do a lot of freaky and different things. People consider me a freak, but he is bigger. He can dunk a basketball and do a lot a lot of crazy athletic things, too.”
Wilkins remembers all the hype surrounding Lawrence when he first met him last year. He knew then there was something special about him, but now he gets to see it every day.
Swinney knew Lawrence was going to be special this past winter when he saw him bend and watched him move as they tested him during mat drills.
“It was unbelievable. This kid never flinched. He was just coming out of high school and he is going through mat drills with no problem. He was mentally tough,” Swinney said. “Just watching him move, I was like, ‘Wow!’
“Then testing him and seeing the makeup of his body and body fat, and all of that type of stuff, this is a lean three hundred and forty-pound man. Then you look at the strength numbers that he has, you could not help but be impressed with him right away.”
But the most impressive thing about Lawrence is just the way he cares himself.
“He is always smiling,” Swinney said.
And that’s what makes Lawrence standout more than anything else.