Lawrence proving to the country what Cartersville already knew

We Told You So

Posted

Trailing Sandy Creek 31-21 in the 2014 Class 4A state quarterfinal game at Weinman Stadium, and with a freshman quarterback at the helm of the Cartersville High football team, it appeared the Canes were going to come up short as the game entered the fourth quarter.

A sense of finality began to set in. I was thinking of a lede to appropriately put a bow on a successful year for the Canes while also trying to capture the melancholy of the loss.

The article for the next day's paper was all but written when a just-turned 15-year-old quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, hit junior tight end Miller Forristall on a third-and-7 along the near sideline for a 12-yard gain to keep Cartersville's hopes alive.

After scoring a touchdown later that drive and stopping Sandy Creek on the next possession, the Canes fell into a third-and-10 in their own territory, still trailing 31-28 with about three minutes left in the game. 

Lawrence then hit Forristall again, this time for a 45-yard gain down the near sideline with a pass over the head of a hapless defensive back. The ball couldn't have been placed into Forristall's hands better if it was a handoff.

At that point, I started to rethink the lede of my article. And when Lawrence hit Forristall for a 22-yard gain down the middle of the field on a third-and-9 to break into the Sandy Creek red zone with a little more than a minute left, leading soon after to the game-winning score, I realized the story I was writing about the game that night wasn't really the story at all. 

The story was this phenom 15-year-old quarterback — and about Forristall, who selflessly moved aside earlier that year from quarterback to tight end just for a moment like that one against Sandy Creek … to help the team win.

It is that selflessness that makes Forristall the perfect component to a championship program like Alabama.

The stories of both players are still unfolding, but a major chapter will be written Monday night when Lawrence leads Clemson into the national championship game against former Cartersville teammate Forristall and the Crimson Tide.

Of course, the lead-up to the game has featured every talking head on ESPN discussing Lawrence's prodigious freshman season. I find myself locked in on the TV each time a pundit talks about him like my dog turned his attention to me when he heard the crinkle of the bag of Milk-Bones.

That's because every time someone like Jesse Palmer, Kirk Herbstreit or even Skip Bayless gushes on national television and becomes a believer, it's like reliving that moment in 2014 when I discovered Trevor Lawrence's greatness for myself.

That Sandy Creek game was my "Trevor Lawrence moment," and everyone from Cartersville has their own, but we all had it way before the rest of the football-watching world. 

Therefore, on behalf of Cartersville, I hereby declare to the rest of the country, "We told you so."

There were some other people who knew about Trevor's precocious talent back then. I happened to be at a preseason Cartersville practice in the summer of 2015 when Rusty Mansell of 247 Sports announced Lawrence was the No. 1-ranked player in the Class of 2018 and anointed him the first rising sophomore to be invited to the All-American Bowl. From that point forward, I felt validated in telling everyone who would listen about Trevor.

I can still see the eye-rolling from my friends when I declared a 15-year-old the future No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. Now, my friends are texting me, "Isn't Lawrence that kid you told me about?"

Their eye-rolling is what I was doing when Trevor was briefly and misguidedly demoted to the No. 2 prospect in his class before his senior year at CHS. This is my first column in five and half years at The Daily Tribune News. That blasphemy nearly prompted my first column because I felt like Trevor should be defended as one of Cartersville's own. But I concluded Trevor didn't need my help and his play would write the story.

I instead decided to write the article about Trevor moving back to the No. 2 ranking behind Justin Fields with impartiality. However, now that Trevor's at Clemson, my objectivity on the subject is no longer part of the  program. I guess you could say, on that subject, I've made a transfer.

The other people who knew about Trevor, of course, were college coaches. I witnessed Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott be the first person to greet Trevor outside the locker room inside the Georgia Dome after winning his second state championship with the Canes. I knew at that point, a couple of weeks before he committed, he was going to Clemson.

I also remember standing on the Cartersville sideline during the Calhoun game at Weinman Stadium in 2017 when Trevor and the Canes put up 56 points before the seven-minute mark of the second quarter. I was not standing more than 10 feet from Scott and Clemson quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter when Trevor evaded the rush and uncorked a 45-yard frozen rope, throwing across his body, off balance, and placing the ball between two Calhoun defenders for a touchdown pass to T.J. Horton.

If you saw the looks on Streeter's and Scott's faces after that play, you would have known then that Kelly Bryant wasn't going to hold on to that starting quarterback spot for long, through no fault of his own.

As I sit here writing this column, I now realize that the Sandy Creek moment in 2014 was just the first. We've all had several Trevor Lawrence moments — whether it was witnessing him break Deshaun Watson's state records or hitting Forristall for the lone touchdown of the 2015 state title game against Buford.

And just as entertaining as those moments are the ones that came off the field, like when you run into Trevor at Chick-fil-A on Cherokee Place and he gives a characteristically cool "What's up," or when he stuck around long after a game at Weinman Stadium to take a picture with your kid.

We all have Trevor Lawrence moments that are unique, because we're here in Bartow County and had those moments before anyone else.

Fortunately for us, we can now share those moments with the rest of the country.