JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Unless something unforeseen happens before April 29, the Jaguars will make Trevor Lawrence the first pick of the 2021 NFL draft. It’s a spot Lawrence has been expected to be selected in for years.
Lawrence has been in the spotlight for a long time. As the nation’s No. 1 high school recruit, he appeared in a game on ESPN2 in 2017 when his Cartersville High faced Bartram Trail in a game that was quite a showcase. Lawrence’s team jumped out to a 28 point lead, but Bartram came back to make it close, only to lose 52-45. Bartram Trail coach Darrell Sutherland remembers what it was like to watch Lawrence that night and recalls what stood out to him before Lawrence made his way to Clemson.
“We got to watch the film (in preparation for the matchup) we thought, ‘Wow, he’s really as good as advertised.’ But until you go and see him in person...some of the throws that he made during that game and the way that he kept his poise and his competitiveness and the focus was really obvious,” Sutherland said. “And then, just incredible arm strength.”
The arm made a lasting impression on Sutherland and he’s been recounting some of Lawrence’s throws more often as the draft has approached.
“I can still picture this one where he throws one from one hash to the opposite sideline,” Sutherland said. “And it never, it has zero arc on it. I mean, it never gets above where he released it. And the three or four of the coaches that were standing on the sidelines, we just looked at each other like, ‘That’s pretty good.’”
The game featured Lawrence, and for Bartram Trail, Joey Gatewood, who was an Auburn signee, now with Kentucky, and Riley Smith, who would go on to Boise State. Sutherland knew the physical tools Lawrence had, but it was the mental approach that stood out to him, especially with all of the attention paid to him as the top recruit in the country.
“I was really just impressed with the way that, as a high school senior, he handled the stardom and that kind of the show of getting to play on ESPN and that the fans that were there, and I thought you know, everybody involved there really handled it well,” Sutherland said.
Sutherland is a Jaguars fan, although he admits that it’s tough to go to many games during the high school football season. But when asked if he had some advice for Lawrence as he moves to Jacksonville, Sutherland reflected back on his early years in town.
“When we first moved down, everybody told us what a great place it was,” Sutherland said. “In fact, I still remember one of the Chamber of Commerce meetings where they’re talking. They were talking about zoning and doing streets and infrastructure. And the one guy got up because people were complaining About how fast it was growing. He’s like, hey, it’s a great place. People love it here. You can’t be the last one here, close the door behind you. You know. So it is it’s a fantastic place to raise a family. And, you know, I wish him well, I hope he’s able to be here long term and really get to experience what it’s like in this community to raise a family here.”