JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jaxson Dart was expecting a routine interview about playing in the Pac-12.
He got a whole lot more than that.
Now a true freshman quarterback at Southern Cal, Dart was surprised by Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence as the national Gatorade Player of the Year on Tuesday afternoon.
Lawrence, who won the award during his final season at Cartersville High School in Georgia in 2017, went on to lead Clemson to a national championship as a true freshman. He was the No. 1 pick in last month’s draft by Jacksonville.
“I remember watching him on Elite 11 and I think I’ve watched that season many, many times, and, following him, he’s always been one of the highest recruited guys in the country,” Dart said. “And I’ve followed him when he’s broken records, Deshaun Watson’s record. So, I followed him for awhile. So, from him presenting it to me it was awesome.”
Lawrence is a good player to emulate.
He was the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country by 247 Sports and Rivals, and No. 2 by ESPN behind Justin Fields. He went out and exceeded what was expected of him in college, never losing a regular season game and leading Clemson to three straight College Football Playoff appearances.
Lawrence said he was glad to be in on the surprise announcement. As for advice, Lawrence said that he told Dart to just try and relax and don’t be overwhelmed by the expectations of others.
“What I said was, just for me what’s been big is just to always be yourself,” Lawrence said.
“Don’t try to meet any expectations that anyone puts on you. And when you go to a new place, you’re going to feel that pressure to do more and try to be something that you’re not. And you just don’t have to do that. You know you can be yourself and just go to work. Those are those are the main things that I told him.”
Dart, who played at Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah, passed for 4,691 yards, 67 touchdowns and just four interceptions in a 14-0 state championship season. He enrolled early at USC in January. Outside of the criteria of football accolades, the Gatorade award takes in to account community involvement and academics. Dart graduated with a 3.98 GPA and volunteered at local food banks and clothing donation drives.
Lawrence said that his team did outreach activities when he was at Cartersville through his coach back then, Joey King, and how important that it is to give back wherever possible.
“I don’t really remember [specific activities] but I know we did a lot of things with our team,” Lawrence said. “And I think whatever it is that you can do and that you feel passionate about, it’s just important to use whatever platform you have. Everyone has a platform and it reaches different people. That’s why people are going to different things and I think that’s special whenever you can help people out.”
Lawrence said that his adjustment to the NFL has gone well and that he is proud to be able to represent the Jaguars and the town.
“It’s been awesome. And I think something that’s cool was moving on to the NFL is I get to represent the team. And that’s something I don’t take lightly,” he said.
“And there’s a whole lot of people working their tail off to be ready for this season and to represent this team the right way and I just want to be an extension to that. So, I don’t take that lightly and that goes for media, to on the field, to meetings, all those things, it’s the same thing.”