Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was built specifically for the pressure-packed city of New York and the Jets.
On the night of May 25, 1994, ESPN’s Gary Thorne and Bill Clement navigated through the pregame of one of the most iconic New York sports games in the history of this great city. Mark Messier guaranteed a New York Rangers’ Game 6 victory with their backs against the wall, trailing the series 3-2, to the upstart New Jersey Devils. (Apologies to the many Long Island Jets fans who call the Islanders their hockey team.)
“There’s something about Mark Messier,” Clement said. “It’s almost as if he was genetically programmed to handle big situations.”
The result? Well, Thorne wrapped it up as nicely as anybody possibly could.
“Do you believe it? Do you believe it? He said we will win Game 6; he has just picked up the hat trick.”
Messier’s three third-period goals helped the Rangers overcome a 2-0 deficit, win Game 6, get them to a breathtaking Stephane Matteau Game 7 moment and ultimately win the organization’s first Stanley Cup in 54 years. Let’s just agree that this sort of thing doesn’t happen every year. It takes a special human with accomplished sports abilities to even have a shot at such a feat.
Messier was that guy. Up to that point, the Rangers would bring in a veteran or five who was seemingly nearing the end of his career. Like clockwork, he wouldn’t get the job done and the drought would extend another year. Messier changed that in 1994, but his arrival in 1991 transformed an entire culture.
Trevor Lawrence is no Mark Messier. Let’s make that clear at the top. Messier moved to New York in his early 30s having already won five Stanley Cups and a Hart Trophy (MVP). The man was already a Hockey Hall of Fame player.
The New York Jets, however, are what the Rangers were: a New York organization whose only constant pursuit is to put an end to grotesque streaks (a decade of playoff-less football and over 50 years without a championship) while dealing with the most aggressive, in-your-face media that’s ever existed. Had Messier not come through on his guarantee, the results would have been disastrous. A special individual like Messier rarely thinks about those results.
Winning in New York requires special humans who have seemingly been genetically engineered for the big-time and the kid from Clemson qualifies.
The man the kids call T-Law lives football. Rarely does he make any noise outside of football, and when he does, it makes sense. He goes out of his way to separate his voice from the crowd.
In early September, Lawrence made it clear to the world that he is “not an activist.” These social media-heavy days have brought on a much different professional sports feel than decades prior. While most of the diehard sports-loving world wishes to keep sports and politics separate, the current media climate defies that wish at every turn. It leads to many voices echoing certain sentiments across our screens.
Lawrence, at times, has been no different in this regard. He has used his platform to promote equality, but he’s also made it clear that he’s not an activist—something few athletes do these days.
“I’m not a civil rights activist or an activist in general,” Lawrence said per ESPN’s David M. Hale. “I just think we all carry a responsibility based on who you are and what your platform is. For the love of my teammates and friends, family, everyone I know, I think it’s part of my responsibility to try to help any way I can.
“I know there’s a lot of eyes on me. Critics, but also a lot of younger generation people looking up to me, so I’m conscious of that. I want to use my platform the right way and try to impact people. I’m not an activist of any sorts, but I do think I have a responsibility to promote equality and help the people I love.”
The advent of Twitter has caused mass confusion in multiple parts of our news world. Instead of a clear compartmentalization of news categories, it’s become an avenue that embodies the intersectionalism of everything (sports, politics, societal matters, business, finance, etc.).
It’s all any 21-year-old kid would know, and when considering Lawrence’s age, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the kid’s name mixed in with internet controversy from time to time. Yet, to come up with any real controversy surrounding the kid is a difficult task. Always carrying a cool and calm demeanor apparently carries over to the keyboard.
His thoughts usually convey something that’s tough to come by in today’s rigid climate: a ton of gray area and common sense.
Let’s work together to create a situation where we can play the game that all of us love. Not divide and argue. There is a way forward
— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) August 9, 2020
This is the case despite his willingness to speak his own truth. Lawrence was never afraid to tell the world (and the ACC, most importantly) that he wanted to play football amid the COVID-19 crisis.
— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) August 9, 2020
Oh yeah, and don’t attack his coach. The moment Dabo Swinney found himself in some hot water over his “football matters” t-shirt, Lawrence was ready to do battle for his guy.
Coach Swinney’s shirt, in any way, is not mocking the Black Lives Matter movement. He has been wearing the shirt for months in meetings.
— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) June 7, 2020
Every all-time sports great has demonstrated an incredible passion for the game. The truly special ones are willing to sacrifice everything for each guy in the locker room.
Had he been born during Messier’s era, it’s doubtful he’d even possess a Twitter account (pretending such a thing existed in those days). For the most part, he’s short, concise and non-controversial when speaking to the media.
He’s Derek Jeter-like in a sense. (Apologies to the many Jets-Mets fans out there.) Much like Messier, the kid isn’t Jeter, of course. That’s obvious. At the same time, the fashion in which he engages with the media is incredibly professional.
Consider the running dialogue he’s been forced to deal with over the last year or so. Lawrence, the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and perhaps John Elway, has been operating with the 2021 NFL draft question lingering over his head for quite some time. It’s something that even caught fire when he won the National Championship as a freshman.
Throughout the process, Lawrence has been pretty clear: he intends to enter the 2021 NFL draft and has said it on multiple occasions.
In early September, he told the world that he planned on 2020 “being his last year” at Clemson, per ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. Just three days ago, he said that Saturday’s matchup against Pittsburgh would be his “senior night,” despite the fact he’s only a junior. For the most part, he’s been clear when discussing his future plans.
Interestingly, Lawrence created brief hysteria when he hinted that a slim possible return to Death Valley in 2021 could be in the cards.
“I don’t know, I mean we’ll just have to see how things unfold,” Lawrence told reporters. “I think there’s a lot of factors in that. Honestly just playing this year, putting everything I have into it. Not really focusing on next year, whether I leave or stay or whatever. Obviously, I have the option to do either one.
“Kind of my mindset has been that I’m gonna move on, but who knows? There’s a lot of things that could happen. So just really focused on this year and not trying to look ahead. Not trying to worry about that. Obviously, I can’t control it and really just trusting that God has a plan for me, no matter where that is. No matter where I go, whether it’s across the country, whether it’s close to home, whether I stay another year. No matter what it is we’ll work it out. So I’m not sure, that’s a tough one. But we’ll see how it all unfolds.”
This came in late October around the same time former NFL players and pro football pundits vocally encouraged Lawrence to avoid the Jets in the draft. Simultaneously, the tank race had just begun heating up.
Perhaps Lawrence didn’t want to see any NFL team purposefully tanking for his services. Perhaps the “I’m entering the draft” talk had reached a point he didn’t appreciate. After all, the kid is still with his collegiate team at the time and all of this NFL draft talk had to be getting to him. Maybe he thought of it as a distraction at the time and wanted to take his foot off the gas a bit.
Whatever the case, Lawrence has handled these conversations tremendously well considering the furious nature it’s come at him. He’s even avoided any Jets-related topic throughout the entire process—a magnificent feat in itself.
The off-the-field stuff is apparent; he’s the perfect individual to handle the New York media. The on-the-field talent speaks for itself. But it’s his clutch ability that serves as the cherry on top of this discussion.
Lawrence has delivered in the clutch nearly every time he’s had the opportunity. From his first start on Sept. 29, 2018, in Death Valley to the 2018 National Championship that saw him knock off Tua Tagovailoa and mighty Alabama with an absurd 184.5 passer rating as a 19-year-old true freshman, he’s clearly demonstrated the goods in crunch time—sort of like Willis Reed. (Apologies to the Jets fans who love their Brooklyn Nets and remember the Julius Erving ABA days, but you knew I’d sneak basketball in here somewhere.)
Don’t forget his performance against Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinals a year ago. Down 16-0, he engineered a comeback that started with 21-straight points and finished with a game-winning passing touchdown with under two minutes remaining.
The quarterback has also showcased a keen sense of leadership. Recently missing games due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Lawrence was loud when rooting on his replacement.
LETS GO!!! So happy for this team. Great win. Miss being there more than anything. @DJUiagalelei did your thing proud of you 💪🏼
— Trevor Lawrence (@Trevorlawrencee) October 31, 2020
It stands to reason there is no Doc Frankenstein who created Trevor Lawrence. His parents, Jeremy and Amanda Lawrence, simply raised a one-in-a-million kid who’s set to graduate a semester-and-a-half early, December 2020. But if there was such a thing as genetically-engineered perfection for New York City sports, we should just attribute Lawrence to the football gods and call it a day.
Messier, Jeter, Reed … Lawrence? Such a statement is a long way off from not attracting hysterical laughs. The New York Jets still have to finish with the worst record in the NFL this year. Six significant games obviously remain. Of course, a Pro Football Hall of Fame career would need to transpire to make those comparisons legitimate as well.
That’s not the point. Instead, it’s about identifying the correct personality that can handle the pressure New York brings, the correct professional who never allows himself to get too high or too low while fending off attacks from every angle.
This kid, Trevor Lawrence, is genetically-perfect for New York City and the Jets.