Trevor Lawrence didn't play like a 19-year-old true freshman as the quarterback led Clemson to the national championship with a 44-16 victory over Alabama Monday night at Levi Stadium.
The moment was not too big.
After watching last year's national semifinal from his home in Cartersville, Lawrence saw Clemson fall to Alabama in the teams' third straight CFP meeting. There would be one more time. Lawrence said he dreamed of a chance to play in such a game.
“Yeah, I mean, it was just surreal,” Lawrence said when asked if the game lived up to his lofty expectations from a year ago. “So yeah, it was even better.”
Lawrence became just the second true freshman starting quarterback to win a national championship, joining Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway in 1985. Clemson won it's second national championship in three seasons, as it also beat Alabama for the title two seasons ago.
Lawrence finished completing 20 of 32 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns and was never sacked. He was 8 of 11 for 240 yards with two touchdowns on third down alone, with his receivers hauling in one impressive catch after another.
“The games like this you’ve got to make big plays, and the guys that we have, they definitely did that,” Lawrence said. “You just give them a chance, and they’ll come down with it. Like I said about the O-line, same thing about the receivers and running backs and everyone else. Just amazing players and really just so proud of — it took a lot to get here, but really just proud of those guys.”
Not surprisingly, Lawrence was named the offensive MVP of the national championship game.
Lawrence was the top recruit in the national when he came out of Cartersville High. He broke the Georgia state records for passing yards and passing touchdowns, eclipsing the marks of Deshaun Watson, who led Clemson to the national title. Lawrence was The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Player of the Year as a junior in 2016.
The starting quarterback job was not handed to Lawrence when he arrived on the Clemson campus. He played behind Kelly Bryant, whom he replaced after the fourth game of the season. Bryant has since transferred.
Clemson has not looked back after coach Dabo Swinney made the move.
“I mean, I think some of that stuff came after, you know, but when it happened, I’m just like, OK, I’ve got to lock in this week, take it one week at a time,” Lawrence said. “We had a conversation, but we knew — the situation was I got the opportunity to start that week, and that was really it. But I feel like just trying to take it one week at a time and really everyone on our team has done that, and that’s why we’ve been so successful this year.”
In the battle of young quarterbacks, Lawrence upstaged Alabama’s Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa. Clemson will have the phenom for two more seasons before he would even be eligible for the NFL draft.
For now, there is a moment to enjoy the accomplishment.
“That doesn’t mean as much as being able to be a part of this team,” Lawrence said. “Really it’s true, even if we didn’t go all this way and win a national championship, this has been a team that I’ll never forget for one, and it’s just been amazing, the focus and how driven this team is has been unbelievable. Just these seniors, just taking me in, and they kind of dragged me along until I got my feet under me, and they just — they’re awesome people as well as players.”