Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence Takes Center Stage as Football’s Next Big Thing

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott caught a smile flashing across Trevor Lawrence’s face following the Tigers’ pregame meal before Monday night’s championship game against Alabama, the Tigers’ first signal that even this moment, the biggest in the sport, wouldn’t be too much for the 19-year-old true freshman quarterback.

Elliott watched as Lawrence went through his normal rituals: change, lace up, tape up, get ready. Lawrence was calm, relaxed. He was ready. Sophomore wide receiver Tee Higgins sensed it, too.

“The big dog’s coming out tonight,” he said.

Not long after the meal, Lawrence was briefed by Elliott, co-coordinator Jeff Scott and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter, who hammered home the same message the coaching staff had preached throughout his three-month stint as the Tigers’ starting quarterback: “You’re prepared for this,” Scott said. “You’re more than prepared for this.”

“I believe you’re the best quarterback in the country. I believe you’re going to be the best quarterback on the field tonight. I think that’s going to show. You don’t have to do anything more than what you’ve done all year long. Be special.”

A star was born on Monday night here in the Bay Area, one with long, flowing blond locks, a powerful right arm and an aura of serenity even among the highest stakes there is to offer — a College Football Playoff National Championship game pairing with Alabama, the fourth meeting in as many years between two powers who straddle side by side atop the Bowl Subdivision. By embracing the moment and leading Clemson to a 44-16 submission of the Crimson Tide, Lawrence put the finishing touches on a stunning first chapter in what will almost inevitably be a historic college career.

“Hopefully there are no more questions about just how special he really is,” Elliott said. “He’s worked his whole life for moments like this. He wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass.”

Lawrence completed 20 throws in 32 attempts for 347 yards. He tossed three touchdowns without an interception. More than 200 of his passing yards came on third down, via the sort of sideline-to-sideline, on-the-money throws coveted by NFL offenses. Helped by an impressive collection of underclassmen talent at wide receiver — including another true freshman, Justyn Ross, who was the game’s second star — Lawrence unveiled a skill set unmatched by any true freshman at his position in the history of the sport.

“He just went out there and played his ass off and killed it,” said offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, a four-year starter and key cog for each of the Tigers’ two championship-winning teams under Dabo Swinney.

Asked to grade his own performance, Lawrence beamed, leaned back his head and said, “We won the national championship, so pretty high.”

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SOURCE: USA Today, Paul Myerberg