Trevor Lawrence grew up idolizing Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning. Now, even as a freshman, Lawrence is already being compared to him.
Lawrence, who grew up a Tennessee fan, wears No. 16 because it is the number that Manning wore for the Vols before beginning his historic NFL career.
Lawrence considered Tennessee coming out of high school, but ultimately chose Clemson. The No. 1 recruit for the class of 2018 is living up to the hype so far as he leads the ACC in passing touchdowns with 19. His decision to attend Clemson instead of the school he grew up rooting for is working out well for Lawrence.
“They were one of the schools I was interested in, but through the process I decided that wasn’t the best place for me,” Lawrence said of Tennessee. “I was a pretty big fan. My mom’s whole family is from Tennessee, so I grew up watching Tennessee football. That’s who I rooted for until I started getting recruited, and then it kind of just went away when I started looking at where I needed to go. It was kind of a personal thing about what I needed to do instead of a fan.”
Lawrence had yet to be born when Manning left Tennessee to begin his NFL career with the Colts, but he followed him throughout his time in Indianapolis and Denver with the Broncos and was always impressed by what he saw.
“I just always liked how he was so in control of the offense,” Lawrence said. “You could just tell that he knew everything that was going on, how he made checks. He was just a really smart player. That’s one thing I really liked about him.”
Lawrence is working to master Clemson’s offense now, and while it would be impossible to do so as a freshman, he is wise beyond his years when it comes to making checks at the line of scrimmage and reading defenses.
“The bigger the moment, the better he plays,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said, adding that Lawrence changed the protection before a play early in the second half of Clemson’s win at BC. The result was a 33-yard completion to Hunter Renfrow to set up a touchdown.
“For Trevor to see that and slide his protection to give himself some more time, that’s stuff that freshmen quarterbacks don’t do. Not just in that situation but in that game plan, the amount of things we ask him to prepare for and control. He just continues to soak up the knowledge.”
Lawrence’s passing ability, size at 6-foot-6 and advanced football IQ have him as a likely future first-round pick when he is eligible for the 2021 NFL draft.
Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports spoke with an ACC assistant coach who described Lawrence as potentially the top quarterback prospect of this generation.
“He’s the best prospect since (Peyton) Manning. He’d be the first pick in this year’s draft if he came out, even if he didn’t play another snap,” the assistant told Thamel.
The more Lawrence plays and continues to master Clemson’s offense, the more the comparisons to his idol will continue.