Former Silver Bluff star making plays at Boise State
DeMarcus Lawrence pointed to one crucial factor in securing not one, but two, blocked field goals in the same college football game.
The Silver Bluff grad achieved that feat, in addition to five tackles and a sack, for Boise State in a recent game against Southern Mississippi, and his words are a symbol for how he arrived in one of the nation’s most well-known programs in recent years.
“The first thing, it’s just about how bad you want it,” he said.
Boise State, more than 2,000 miles from Aiken County, isn’t where you’d expect to find a former Bulldog, but Lawrence is making a name for himself on the Broncos’ famous blue turf. Through six games this season, Lawrence is third on the team with 31 tackles and second for the Broncos with three sacks, one coming in Saturday’s game against Utah State.
Coming on top of a preseason spot on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Lawrence’s performance so far this year might be enough to have him thinking about individual achievements. He isn’t looking that direction, though.
“I really haven’t set my sights on individual goals this year,” he said. “Really, coming to Boise has made my team goals more important.”
While the impact of being at Boise has been positive for Lawrence, his path there wasn’t a direct one.
A North-South All-Star selection his senior year in high school after playing tight end, offensive tackle and defensive end for the Bulldogs, Lawrence needed to go the junior college route. At the urging of cousin Marcus Lawrence he chose Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. Marcus went to Butler on the way to the University of South Carolina and the NFL’s New York Giants, and Butler’s alumni also include LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger and Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, who played at Florida State before being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in April.
Lawrence said that, through his entire journey so far, a lesson he learned at Silver Bluff has driven his success.
“Growing up and going to Silver Bluff, all the coaches, teach that it’s all about the mindset of playing the game,” he said. “If you want it bad enough, youv’e got to go chase it.”
Bulldog head coach Al Lown said that it’s nice to know that the lessons he and his coaches try to pass on have stuck with Lawrence and others.
“It’s gratifying, no doubt about it,” he said. “We feel like we teach football the right way at Silver Bluff. Team comes first; they know that.”
Lawrence was redshirted his first year at Butler, and then earned several postseason honors from the National Junior College Association and Jayhawk Conference for his 2011 campaign that included 66 tackles, 27 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
After that, he got attention from Tennessee and Ole Miss of the SEC, Kansas State of the Big 12 and South Florida, then of the Big East. Even with schools from the BCS conferences calling, Lawrence chose Boise State, a member of the Mountain West after flirtations with the Big East before its transition to the American Athletic Conference.
“It was a lot of good schools, but I thought Boise was the best fit,” he said.
The main reason for that fit was head coach Chris Peterson. Lawrence described Peterson as a player’s coach, which makes him easy to relate to, but ultimately, Peterson won over DeMarcus’ mother.
“You know, ‘Coach Pete’ came and visited my parents, and my mom said he had a nice vibe about him,” Lawrence said.
Instead of the usual talk about how big of a role Lawrence could fill for the Broncos, Peterson talked about how he could “make (Lawrence) a better man,” and that made all the difference in his decision.
He said he was never concerned about missing out on any national attention by choosing Boise over schools from higher-profile conferences. With Boise winning a pair of Fiesta Bowls, one over traditional power Oklahoma, and smaller programs getting their shot on television more and more, he felt he could shine regardless.
“Basically, nowadays, it really doesn’t matter where you go to school, as long as you play hard every play,” he said.
In his first season at Boise he recorded a team-best 13 tackles for loss and 9½ sacks to gain his spot on the Nagurski watch list, and his fast start to this year has him moving up some NFL Draft prospect lists.
Lawrence hasn’t even thought about potentially leaving Boise in the spring to pursue a professional career, though.
“I have no idea at this time,” he said. “I’m just focusing on this season and getting better each week.”
Lown said that the best is still to come for the 6-foot-3, 245-pound athlete, regardless of when he decides it’s time to move on.
“Obviously, he’s got a big topside to him. He’s an explosive player, tall, rangy,” Lown said. “He’s got a great future in front of him.”
He also said that players like Lawrence, Clemson freshman Cordrea Tankersley and former NFL player Troy Williamson, all of whom came from Silver Bluff, can serve as an inspiration to current and future Bulldogs. They’re an example that the core values of the program, which Lawrence has taken to heart, can carry an athlete far in life.
“It’s something, the kids can see if they come in and do things the right way, there’s a future beyond high school football,” Lown said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.