Trevor Lawrence is the new face – and hair – of a franchise after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected the Clemson quarterback with the first overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft in Cleveland.
The 21-year-old – who was at his home in Clemson, and was forced to wait nine minutes before hearing his name read out by commissioner Roger Goodell – is a generational talent, touted as the next John Elway/Peyton Manning/Andrew Luck since high school. No pressure then.
In college he won a national championship in his first season as a freshman. When he left, his overall record was 38-2. And should the Jaguars fail to go 17-0, Lawrence will lose the first regular season game of his life after four years at Cartersville High School and three at Clemson.
Lawrence whips a pass in his final game for the the Tigers – a 49-28 defeat by Ohio State
Lawrence, who has already signed multiple sponsorship deals, looked at ease on draft day
He is tall, lithe, athletic, fearless and fast. Capable of reading defenses, his rifle-like arm is lightning fast one throw, finessed the next. He can extend plays and is comfortable outside the pocket, making swift bursts into space. Well-balanced and decisive, he is a day one starter – a franchise quarterback in waiting.
And now he is tasked with transforming the fortunes of the NFL’s most downtrodden team.
HEIGHT: 6ft 6in
DOB: October 6, 1999
The Jaguars went 1-15 in 2020, with Lawrence – the hottest quarterback prospect for a decade – the reward for their 15-game losing streak.
Since their formation in 1995, the expansion team have enjoyed a meagre six winning seasons
During the nine-year ownership of Fulham supremo Shahid Khan, Jacksonville have been a perennial joke. They play in front of half-full crowds at TIAA Stadium. No wonder Khan is obsessed with Wembley and its 84,000-sell-outs.
Khan did have a taste of success for one season. In 2017 the Jags went 10-6 and reached the AFC Championship. And for three quarters they handed out a footballing lesson to the New England Patriots.
But then Tom Brady woke up. Two touchdown passes to Danny Amendola in the final eight and a half minutes later and Jacksonville’s season was over.
They have floundered since: W12 L36.
But as the New York Jets began to win games, the outlook for Jacksonville suddenly looked brighter.
They cleared the decks. In October, general manager Dave Caldwell was sacked. Head coach Doug Marrone followed in January. Khan’s son Tony remained in his post and is now chief football strategy officer.
With Lawrence waiting in the draft, Khan Snr managed to coax three-time national champion college coach Urban Meyer out of retirement – he has promised to invest in infrastructure too.
Shahid Khan is facing relegation with Fulham but surely the Jaguars can only go up from 1-15
Urban Meyer, 56, was coaxed out of retirement to coach Jacksonville and Lawrence
The Jaguars were also a preposterous $83million under the salary cap. They have signed 27 free agents, among them underrated receiver Marvin Jones Jnr.
With ten picks in this year’s draft – five in the top 100 – it is now or never.
When asked about Lawrence last week, Jacksonville general manager Trent Baalke said: ‘Well, the easiest way to answer that is “No negatives”.
‘All the research we’ve done, you’re always looking for the stars to align when you’re looking at prospects, whether that be from a physical, mental, character aspect, whatever the case may be. With his situation, like many others in this draft, the stars all align and that’s what you’re looking for.’
Meyer added: ‘We have to add immediate value to our team. That’s the way Trent, myself, and our coaching staff look at it. That’s how important these picks are, so we’re looking at these picks to make instant impact, especially those first four picks.’
JAGUARS 2021 SCHEDULE
As an AFC team, Jacksonville plays its 17th game at home. Last year was the first since 2012 that the Jags did not play a ‘home’ game in England. The franchise and Wembley are said to be in negotiations. The NFL schedule is released on May 12.
HOME: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons.
AWAY: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks
Jacksonville will not have to worry about the laid-back Lawrence off the field.
Earlier this month he married high school sweetheart Marissa in South Carolina. He proposed at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium in South Carolina and after posting their wedding registry, the Lawrences were swamped with gifts from Jaguars fans, including a $300 toaster.
In reply, the newlyweds pledged $20,000 to Jacksonville charities.
Lawrence and then fiancee Marissa enjoy day one of the Masters earlier this month
Fans of the Green Bay Packers found something to cheer about before the draft in Cleveland
He is also savvy, signing up to various sponsorship deals, presumably well aware of the impact an athlete can have in a one-horse town.
Lawrence also signed an endorsement deal with cryptocurrency investment app Blockfolio.
Consequently, his signing bonus will be paid in crypto coins such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Solana, deposited into his Blockfolio account.
So Khan has his man. A quarterback who can thrill on the field and not put a foot wrong off it. A marketable athlete well beyond the borders of the USA.
The Jaguars have played a game at Wembley every season since 2013 (their record is 3-4), aside from the pandemic-hit 2020 edition, where they were due to play back-to-back games.
But with their current deal with Wembley expired – the Jaguars are in discussion with the FA about playing there this season – it is not known whether UK fans will get an early glimpse of Lawrence and the new-look Jaguars.
But if and when they do, perhaps it will be something to tell the grandchildren. Are we talking about the new Peyton Manning? It’s going to be fun finding out.