CENTRAL, S.C. — Due to a shoulder injury which he originally suffered while playing his final season at Clemson, Shaq Lawson’s first year in the NFL did not go the way he or his new team expected it to.
Shoulder surgery forced the No. 19 overall pick in the 2016 draft to miss the first six games of the season. When he did get back in the mix, the Bills had to ease him back. Lawson finished his first year playing in 10 games.
However, there were good signs for the future. In those 10 games, he recorded two sacks, including his first career sack, which came against New England quarterback Tom Brady. In that game against the eventual Super Bowl Champions, he tallied a season-high three tackles. He also had a sack the next week against Seattle. In all, he finished the season with 13 tackles and 12 quarterback pressures.
When the Bills begin camp next Thursday, Lawson will come in feeling the best he has felt since he first stepped foot on campus at Clemson in 2013.
“I’m one hundred percent,” Lawson said on Friday as he was back at Daniel High School hosting the second annual high school camp there with his Daniel friends and former Clemson stars Deandre Hopkins, Jarvis Jenkins and DeShawn Williams. “I feel real good actually. I have not been 100 percent since I first stepped on campus at Clemson.
“I’m just ready to get out there and play a full season. I just want to make an impact and prove why I was drafted in the first round last year.”
It should help that new head coach Sean McDermott has installed a 4-3 based defense, putting Lawson back at his traditional position of being a defensive end instead of an outside linebacker like he was in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme as a rookie.
“I’m going back to something that I am comfortable doing and something with the defense that is easier for me,” Lawson said.
Lawson’s first year in the NFL was a challenging one for the former Clemson All-American. Not only did he have to overcome injury, he also had to overcome a cultural change. Born and raised in South Carolina, Lawson has lived in the warm climate of the South his whole life. Adjusting to the cold weather and the snow that hits the Buffalo area in the winter was not an easy task.
“It’s great, but it is cold up there,” he said smiling. “It is too cold. Buffalo is too cold when it gets to December and you have three games in the snow.”
Though the temperature on Friday in Central, S.C., was in the mid-90s with the heat index above 100, Lawson said he much rather work out in the heat than play in the snow.
“I rather be in this right now,” he said. “I grew up doing this. I did not grow up in the cold. The cold has been kind of bad for me. I kind of struggled when it got cold. I messed up my car a couple of times because I never drove in the snow and things like that. I thought we might have like a two-hour delay, but we did not get anything. It’s crazy.”
Lawson did admit he started to get used to it and he at least knows what to expect this season when the cold weather comes around. However, if it is snowing outside Lawson has no plans other than to go to work and then come back home.
“I hope we don’t have to play in it,” he said smiling.
When it snows, Lawson tries to keep himself warm in a lot of different ways. The Bills have warmers for the players in their gloves and cleats and also there is a lotion they can rub on that warms the skin as well.
“But none of that works. It’s still cold,” he said.
But the winter is still a ways away and Lawson says he is excited for training camp and the 2017 football season.
“I had to turn it up a little bit this off-season,” he said. “I’m playing a new role at Buffalo. I’m back to defensive end, which is what I played at Clemson. This whole off-season has been a great process. I have actually been to a lot of places. I was in L.A. for a week to train. So, I’m just enjoying the process, but I’m ready to get back to it.”
“I know what to expect now,” he continued. “The first year you did not know how camp and everything was going to go as a rookie and you had to do a lot of extra stuff. This year, I know what to expect, and I’m looking forward to having a great camp and a great 2017 season.”
Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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