Although star Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence spent the 2017 season keeping his foot injury low-key, there was nothing low-key about the pain he was experiencing.
Nobody outside of the football program knew the true extent of Lawrence’s injury, but after speaking with the media following Tuesday night’s practice, Lawrence explained just how much it bothered him. Fortunately, for Clemson, he is the healthiest he has been since the later part of his freshman year.
“I’d say I was about 45-50 percent last season,” Lawrence said. “But now I’m feeling much better. It was a big turnaround for me. It’s a blessing. I got a little down, I didn’t know if I was ever going to come back but I just kept with it.”
Lawrence explained he had a nerve block during surgery that irritated some of the nerves in his leg. It was the most serious injury he has dealt with in his career and so it was certainly hard for him at times. However, the support of his teammates helped get him through it.
“I just had all the guys, every guy on the team was on my side,” Lawrence said, “pushing me through it, making me go to rehab, keeping me accountable, things like that.”
Now past the injury, Lawrence can joke about it a little as Christian Wilkins gave Lawrence a nickname for the injury. But Lawrence feels the best he has ever felt and his mobility has certainly improved.
“Last year around this time I had a club foot, basically,” Lawrence said laughing. “That’s what Christian calls it. But I can get on my toes again. I can bounce on them, I can move. My speed is back so I am feeling good.”
Not only has Lawrence gone through surgery and recovery to get back to being fully healthy on the playing field, but he has also watched his diet very closely. The monster defensive lineman known as ‘Big Dex’ was once 370 pounds. However he weighed in at 339 pounds when he reported to camp last week.
“I love to eat,” Lawrence said. “That’s probably one of my favorite things to do other than sleep. But, I definitely got with the nutritionists and chefs everyday making meal plans, meal prepping, because I knew that I couldn’t be 370 and still play to where I wanted to play.
“So I weighed myself every day, twice a day sometimes, just to see where I was. It was a lot of not what I was eating because I don’t eat too bad, but how much I was eating. So I did a little portion control deal.”
Now going into his junior year and most likely last season as a Tiger, Lawrence is ready to take on the veteran role and step up more than he ever has.
“I’ve definitely stepped up in the leadership role,” he said. “Now I’m getting some of the young guys in to doing extra work. A lot of maintenance stuff to take care of our bodies. I kind of learn from each of them…I was a big evaluator my first two years and now I’m stepping up and taking on that leadership role.”