Why Trevor Lawrence shouldn’t have to explain his passion for football

Doug Farrar
·4 min read

In three seasons with the Clemson Tigers, Trevor Lawrence completed 756 passes on 1,146 attempts for 10,091 yards, 90 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions. When under pressure last season, he threw seven touchdowns to two interceptions. When blitzed, he threw seven touchdowns and one interception. Lawrence is the consensus first-overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, and there are all kinds of reasons for that. Depending on which comparison you prefer, he could be the highest-ceiling draftable quarterback since Andrew Luck, or John Elway, or any other slam-dunk you care to mention.

And yet, there are now people questioning Lawrence’s commitment to the game after a Sports Illustrated profile in which he had the unmitigated temerity to admit that he… gasp… doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder.

“It’s hard to explain that because I want people to know that I’m passionate about what I do and it’s really important to me, but . . . I don’t have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyone’s out to get me and I’m trying to prove everybody wrong,” Lawrence said in the cover story. “I just don’t have that. I can’t manufacture that. I don’t want to.”

Now, of course, the brickbats are coming. People who likely have never watched Lawrence’s tape, or tried to analyze his game in any meaningful sense, are going to come after him because he has more on his mind — and in his life — than football. And that is plainly ridiculous. But it also hits the mark, to the point where Lawrence felt the need to clarify what he said.

“It seems as if people are misreading my sentiment,” Lawrence said via Twitter on Saturday. “I am internally motivated – I love football as much or more than anyone. It is a HUGE priority in my life, obviously. I am driven to be the best I can be, and to maximize my potential. And to WIN.

“I have a lot of confidence in my work ethic, I love to grind and to chase my goals. You can ask anyone who has been in my life. That being said, I am secure in who I am, and what I believe. I don’t need football to make me feel worthy as a person. I purely love the game and everything that comes with it. The work, the team, the ups and downs. I am a firm believer in the fact that there is a plan for my life and I’m called to be the best I can be at whatever I am doing.

“Thanks for coming to my TedTalk lol.”

Part of this is the silly season less than two weeks before the draft. But there’s a more insidious aspect to the apparent need for a 21-year-old person who’s still figuring out what’d truly meaningful in his life to shut that all down and make everything about football. There is absolutely no way Lawrence would have succeed at the level he did without a true passion for the game; you don’t develop an acuity for any craft without truly committing yourself to it.

Some in the NFL would rather have players who are smart, but not too smart — too smart to avoid questioning their coaches. Too smart to see through the league’s occasional horse hockey. Too smart to be able to walk away if that’s what someone needs to do. It’s better for those who benefit from the effort of athletes if those athletes make their commitments clear, and their distractions non-existent.

But that’s not the way every brain works, and it’s clearly not the way Trevor Lawrence’s brain works. Hopefully, his NFL team (very likely the Jacksonville Jaguars) will take the talent, and the numbers, and the future wins, and fold that into Lawrence’s need to find meaning beyond the game, and understand that it might just make him a happier, more aware, and dare we say it, a better player in the long run.

It’s already pretty obvious that Lawrence gets the game. Why can’t he be allowed to get everything else?

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