Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence won't hesitate to tell you what helped make him into the person and the player he is today.

It's the small town atmosphere he grew up in right here in Aiken.

"Growing up there was great," Lawrence said. "It showed me how to stay humble throughout the process and showed me that if I want something I have to thrive and go get it. The small city can show you a lot of things. You cant take it for granted."

Many see him on television on Sunday's causing havoc for opposing quarterbacks. He's a 6-foot-3, 200 pound menace — in the positive connotation of the word. His nickname is Tank. He's usually running over anything in his way. 

That's not the full story, though. Sure, he's not afraid to speak his mind, but he's actually as laid back as his Aiken County roots.

Those same roots are what have helped make the kid from New Ellenton and Windsor, who didn't necessarily take the traditional route to the NFL, one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL. It's also made him one of the highest paid.

He's an All-Pro defensive end who's made two Pro Bowl's and is coming off a second consecutive impressive season. He made 64 total tackles, and 11 sacks during the 2018 season. That's on the heels of a 58-tackle, 14-sack season the previous year.

He even has the mega contract to match his talents. He signed a five-year contract extension with the Cowboys worth $105 million this offseason.

What's all that mean? By all accounts he's a superstar in the eye's of many. Fans would agree, and the media coverage would suggest the same.

But the NFL star from New Ellenton doesn't necessarily see it that way. If you ask him, he's just DeMarcus — or maybe "Tank" or "War Daddy" if you catch him on game day or in competition.

“I come home and everyone treats me the same, and that's what I love,” Lawrence said last year in an interview with the Aiken Standard. “They show mad love and watch the games and stuff. As long as they treat me the same, I'll treat them the same. I'm not a star.”

Some of that humble attitude comes from his parents, Yvonne and Tyrone and his surroundings growing up. Lawrence actually moved to Windsor during his childhood and grew up without many neighbors, but during that time he learned valuable lessons and skills needed in life.

"They moved me to the woods," Lawrence said with a laugh. "It was just me and my cousins across the street, but every year they got to go to summer camp and I didn't. So I was outside raking leaves, in the house cooking with mom or she was teaching me how to do laundry and stuff like that."

Those lessons his mom taught him did help him when he went off to college. He jokes that it also confirmed that he "absolutely had to make it to the league," because he knew if he came back home he'd just be doing the same type of stuff. First he made a stop at Butler Community College in Kansas. Then he made the move to Boise State, where he was All-Conference twice and a second team All-American his junior year.

The other benefit Lawrence got from his Aiken upbringing was seeing how important family was. His father always instilled in him that family was the most vital thing. 

Lawrence still draws on those teachings from his father today as he now has his own family. He and his wife, Sasha, got married earlier this month. He's also used his dad's teachings in raising two sons, Damari and Kal'el and daughter Mariah.

"He (his father) set a great example for me growing up," Lawrence said. "I'm not going to say everything was perfect, but it was perfect to me because both parents were there. So that's all I want to do. I want to give back to my family the love my father gave to me."

With Lawrence the giving doesn't just stop there, however. He's a big proponent of giving back to the community. He's big on health and has often times donated bikes to kids in the Dallas area. He has some special things planned in the near future for kids at his alma mater. He will also be back in town next week as the special guest at the Aiken Standard's 2019 Best of Prep Sports Awards banquet. A day later he will host the City of Dream's Football Camp at his alma mater, Silver Bluff High School.

"My main focus is to show them there is a different way out. You don't have to sit and be the average person," Lawrence said. "You can thrive to be better. You can thrive to make your family better. You can thrive to make your city better. That's my main focus now."

Though he's made the biggest name for himself in other parts of the country, first at Butler Community College, then in Boise Idaho at Boise State and ultimately in Dallas as a member of 'America's team', Lawrence's impact has reached back to where it all started for him.

"Out here, we're extremely proud of DeMarcus and where he's come from, current Silver Bluff head coach De'Angelo Bryant said. "We understand that his story was probably not like most of the NFL guys, so we understand and also respect his path and his work ethic to get where he is."

Several people within the Silver Bluff communities already point to Lawrence as an example of dreaming big.

Lawrence is also still a big kid with dreams. Ones that he's hoping will inspire those growing up near his hometown to do great things as well.

"I'm looking forward to just coming back and seeing the young kids faces and feel their energy. And coming back to feel that hot South Carolina sun," Lawrence said. "I just want to come back and share.

​Eric Russell is the multimedia editor at the Aiken Standard. Contact him at 803-644-2396.