No. 1 Clemson visits Georgia Tech this Saturday in Atlanta
After Kelly Bryant produced just 13 yards and one first down on Clemson’s first two series at Georgia Tech in 2018, Dabo Swinney made a call to the bullpen and brought in then freshman Trevor Lawrence.
Growing up just a little more than a half-hour from Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Lawrence came off the bench and threw four touchdown passes in leading the Tigers to a 49-21 victory on September 22, 2018.
“I went in at some point in the first or second quarter and I was ready,” Lawrence said as he recalled that moment in Atlanta two years ago. “I knew the game plan and had been studying. I just did whatever I could. I took what they gave me. I ended up playing a really good game, which was cool.”
Lawrence played more than a really good game. He showed the separation between him and Bryant when he rolled to his left on a third-down play early in the second quarter. The Cartersville, Ga., native threw a laser on the run, somehow getting the ball to Hunter Renfrow as the wide receiver was sliding towards the front pylon of the Georgia Tech end zone. The ball somehow got over the arms of a Tech linebacker who appeared to be in good position to make a play.
Being thirty-five to forty-five minutes from my house was really cool. I had a lot of people there, a lot of family and friends so it was a lot of fun.
Lawrence went on to finish the afternoon 13-of-18 for 176 yards in the Clemson rout.
“That was a lot of fun. I am excited to go back. It is kind of like a home game for me,” he said.
The days after Lawrence’s great performance was not any fun. On Monday, Swinney told Lawrence he was going to be the Tigers’ new starter when they hosted Syracuse the following Saturday. The Clemson coach also broke the news to Bryant, who did not take the news too well.
“It was mixed emotions for me, for sure. Obviously, I was happy. It was something I worked for and what I was hoping would happen eventually. But also, Kelly was one of my friends. We were close. So, it is a weird situation because you know how long he had been here, how hard he worked and what he had done to help this team and the year before had a great season. All of those things. So, it is definitely not the easiest thing.”
What happened the next day did not help. When the players returned to practice Tuesday, Bryant showed up at the facility like normal. He attended the team meetings and unit meeting, and even celebrated his birthday with his teammates.
However, when the team went out to practice, Bryant did not follow. Instead, he stayed back. When he eventually did not come out, Swinney sent someone in to retrieve him. That’s when they discovered Bryant had left the facility.
When he returned to his office after practice, Swinney saw the text message Bryant sent him saying he was leaving the team.
“I never wanted to step on his toes, so I just went to work. When they named me the starter, I knew it was just the beginning,” Lawrence said. “I still had a lot of work to do, but it is definitely kind of a weird situation when that happens.”
Though Bryant was not happy, Swinney’s decision turned out to be the right one for the Tigers. Clemson went on to win the national championship later that season, while Lawrence took home MVP honors in the Cotton Bowl and in the national title game.
He won his first 25 starts as a starter and will head to Atlanta on Saturday with a chance to improve to 30-1 since taking over the Clemson offense two years ago.
“I am going to try to get as many (tickets) as I can for my (high school) teammates and stuff. Obviously, since it is close to home for me, I know a lot of guys and we are still pretty close,” Lawrence said. “A lot of people are going to be coming from everyone’s families. I am going to get as many as I can for my friends and family. So, yeah, I am excited. It is always a fun one.”
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