By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
Shaq Lawson has played football in Clemson for years. Okay, technically it’s Central, but it’s pretty close.
The point is that Lawson has seen the frenzy of a big game before. The freshman defensive end has seen a ton of Tiger football in his life, so he knew Saturday’s game with Georgia would be a raucous environment. But he quickly found out his experience on the field was much different than his experience in the stands.
“It’s different from when you’re a recruit because you don’t know how loud it is until you’re actually in the game,” Lawson said. “I couldn’t really hear any plays, it was so loud.”
Lawson received significant action in his first career game against the Bulldogs. He played 30 snaps as the primary backup among defensive ends and registered three tackles in the contest.
Many of those snaps were played alongside Deshawn Williams, a former teammate of his during his prep career. For a first-year player in a high-stakes game, having a veteran—Williams is a junior—who is also a friend of his made competing in the trenches just a little bit easier.
“In high school, we played a lot with each other,” Lawson said. “It just felt like we were in high school again, right beside each other.”
The coaches have put a lot of faith in Lawson, faith normally reserved for veteran players. But Lawson is no ordinary freshman.
While trying to enroll at Clemson, Lawson was just short of meeting qualifications for entry into the university. As a result, he spent a semester last fall at Hargrave Military Academy maturing as a person and growing up on the football field.
Lawson was a force at Hargrave, which is why some tabbed him as the top prep school prodigy in the United States. Much like Corey Crawford and others before him, Lawson had the chance to develop his body into a more imposing physical specimen in the training program at the military academy.
He credits the grind at Hargrave for shaping him, both on the field and off it. Early wake-up calls—even on weekends—and the rigors of classwork helped Lawson prepare for college life.
He also benefited from early enrollment, as he joined the Tigers in January and went through spring practice with the team. All of it was not in Lawson’s plan, but now he understands why he had to endure the long wait.
“God had His plan, and He wanted me to go there,” Lawson said. “I just had to deal with it and suck it up for six months.”
Now he is back home. His family can see him play once again, and he is surrounded by a handful of his former teammates from Daniel High School that can help him feel comfortable in his new surroundings.
“We never got that chance to play for a championship at Daniel,” Lawson said. “I feel like since we’re all together, we can play for a national championship now.”
It may sound like wishful thinking, but having Lawson in the fold seems to have made such things a bit easier to imagine.