Over the years, Clemson has had numerous players selected in the top 5 or top 10 of an NFL Draft. However, one of the richest and most storied programs in college football has never had a former player selected as the No. 1 overall pick in an NFL Draft.
Trevor Lawrence became the first former Clemson football player selected as the first overall pick, as the Jacksonville Jaguars took him with the No. 1 selection Thursday at the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland.
“The Jaguars are getting a winner, capital W-I-N-N-E-R, WINNER,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’re getting a great human being, great leader and a highly skilled football player.”
Prior to Lawrence’s selection on Thursday, Clemson’s highest NFL draft pick was fourth overall, which was done four times. Banks McFadden went No. 4 to the Dodgers in 1940, Gaines Adams did the same in 2007 with Tampa, Sammy Watkins went No. 4 overall to Buffalo in 2014 and Clelin Ferrell was selected No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft by the Oakland Raiders.
Lawrence had one of the most celebrated careers by a quarterback in college football history from 2018-2020, leading Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman in 2018 and serving as the face and voice of the sport in the two seasons that followed. He concluded his career 34-2 (.944) as a starter, the third-best winning percentage by a starting quarterback with at least 30 career starts since Division I split in 1978, trailing only Miami’s Ken Dorsey (.950) and USC’s Matt Leinart (.949), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
He exited as the winningest starting quarterback in Clemson history, surpassing the 32 career wins held by Rodney Williams, Tajh Boyd and Deshaun Watson and finished second in the 2020 Heisman Trophy voting, tying Deshaun Watson for the highest finish in school history.
“I can’t say enough good things about Trevor Lawrence and what he’s about not only on the field but especially off the field,” Clemson quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter said. “Obviously, his talent that we all see is ridiculous, but in all areas he has performed so well. I’m just excited about his opportunity to move on to the next level. I think his locker room presence, him being an unbelievable teammate and just his character in general are off the charts. His perspective on life is exactly what you want. I’m so proud of him and excited for this opportunity in his life.”
Not only did he lead the Tigers to the 2018 National Championship, but he also went 29-0 as a starter in the regular season, while becoming the first signal caller at Clemson to win three consecutive ACC Championships since Williams did it from1986-’88.
Lawrence completed 758-of-1138 career passes (66.6 percent) for 10,098 yards with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a pass efficiency rating for 164.26 in 2,237 snaps over 40 career games. Also ran 231 times for 943 career rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns, the fifth-most career rushing touchdowns by a Clemson quarterback in the modern era.
The Cartersville, Ga., did not lose a regular season game at either the high school or collegiate levels. He made five career College Football Playoff starts, tying Jalen Hurts for the most by a quarterback and setting the record for the most at a single program.
Lawrence exited Tigertown with Clemson records in career winning percentage (.944), pass efficiency rating (164.3), yards per passing attempt (8.87) and tying for the most wins against Top 25 opponents (nine). He also finished in the Top 5 in school history in career completion percentage (66.6, second), passing touchdowns (90, tied for second), interception percentage (1.49, second), passing yards (10,098, third), total offense yards (11,041, third), touchdown responsibility (108, third) and completions (758, fourth).
The 2018 ACC Rookie of the Year started the final 11 games in 2018 as a true freshman in helping Clemson become the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0. He also helped the squad win each of its last 10 games by 20 points or more. He became the first true freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national title since 1985.
Lawrence was a consensus freshman All-America honoree who earned a bevy of nation-wide and conference-wide honors for both his athletic and academic success. His 164.26 career pass efficiency rating broke Jameis Winston’s ACC career record (163.28 from 2013-14). He also was the first quarterback ever to win three ACC Championship Games, and was only the sixth quarterback in ACC history to record 10,000 career passing yards and finished tied for third in conference history in career passing touchdowns.
—Clemson Athletic Communications contributed to this story
Clemson’s All-Time NFL Top 10 picks
2021: Trevor Lawrence, No. 1 to Jacksonville
1940: Banks McFadden, No. 4 to the Dodgers
2007: Gaines Adams, No. 4 to Tampa Bay
2014: Sammy Watkins, No. 4 to Buffalo
2019: Clelin Ferrell, No. 4 to Oakland
1979: Jerry Butler, No. 5 to Buffalo
1949: Bobby Gage, No. 6 to Pittsburgh
1982: Jeff Bryant, No. 6 to the Seattle
2017: Mike Williams, No. 7 to the Los Angeles Chargers
2015: Vic Beasley, No. 8 to Atlanta
2020: Isaiah Simmons, No. 8 to Arizona
2010: C.J. Spiller, No. 9 to Buffalo
1983: Terry Kinard, No. 10 to the New York Giants