Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says 'good Lord was in a good mood when He made' Trevor Lawrence

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney has coached a number of great players. Trevor Lawrence might be on an island with his potential for greatness, Swinney says.

The junior quarterback is expected to be the No. 1 pick in next week’s NFL Draft after a stellar career at Clemson, which included one national championship and a runner-up finish.

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“He’s special, man,” Swinney said during Thursday night’s Sports Spectrum Draft Special. “The good Lord was in a good mood when He made him. He must have had football on His mind that day, because, man, you look up the epitome of quarterback and he’s just the poster child of every area.”

Swinney joined the online special — hosted by FOX Sports analyst Brock Huard, and presented by Compassion International — to talk about the upcoming draft, coaching and how his faith in Christ blends with all of it. Much of the conversation centered around Lawrence, though, namely his makeup, character and the faith that drives him.

He’s one of the most anticipated quarterback prospects in recent memory, and Swinney said the expectations are warranted. The coach also said Lawrence is ready for the moment.

“If there’s 100 boxes on the wish list of a quarterback, he checks them all,” Swinney said. “He’s got size. He’s tough. He’s a leader. He’s smart. He prepares. He loves to prepare. He’s a grinder. He’s humble. Even though he looks like Hollywood, there’s no Hollywood in him. He’s low maintenance. He’s a great teammate. He can make every throw you could possibly want him to.”

Lawrence has started as a quarterback since the ninth grade and has excelled at every level he’s played, even as the expectations and spotlight grew. He ended his Clemson career with a school-record 34 wins to go with just two losses, both of which came in the College Football Playoffs.

He led Clemson to a 15-0 record and a national championship as a true freshman in 2018-19.

Swinney said this will be the easiest transition of any player he’s ever coached. A big reason of that is because of how grounded Lawrence is in his faith, he said.

“What I love about him more than anything is that he’s faith-driven,” Swinney said Thursday. “He’s built his life on a foundation of faith. Great mom and dad. Great people around him, but he’s strong in his faith. He’s an inside-out kid in this world of outside-in.”

Several Clemson players are expected to be picked in this year’s draft, and with all of them Swinney hopes people see those same characteristics that make Lawrence successful. As a coach, he too tries to live his life “inside-out” and preaches that to his players.

Swinney offered up two phrases he’s adhered to during his coaching career:
1) Starve the distractions, feed the focus.
2) Don’t let anybody walk between your ears with their dirty feet.

“You’ve got to stay connected,” he said. “You’ve got to stay connected to the vine. Otherwise, a branch just dies. You’ve got to stay connected. You’ve got to be intentional. You’ve got to really be smart about [your] circle of people. You want the right voices. You want to let the right things inside.”

It’s all about putting on the “armor” to fight against the temptations of the world and instead stay focused on Christ, he said.

“That’s what the Bible says — you’ve got to put your armor on every single day. You can’t take a day off. It’s like fish without water. That ain’t going to work,” Swinney said.

And that’s part of what Swinney said his final words of wisdom will be to Lawrence ahead of the draft. Lawrence recently got married, and now his life will change in another major way. Swinney said his biggest piece of advice is to just keep everything in perspective. He had a coach once tell him that no job is worth sacrificing your family for.

While there will be temptation for Lawrence to pursue worldly opportunities and bask in fame, Swinney said as long as Lawrence stays true to who he is, he should be fine.

“He’s obviously stepping into a very, very bright light,” Swinney said. “I’ll tell him just like I tell the team: Don’t ever let the light on you become brighter than the light in you. That’s the first thing — stay connected.

“I’ll be specific with him: just be Trevor. Things that have made you successful, in high school and [at Clemson], the same things are going to make you successful there. Just be who you are. Be who God created you to be.”

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