Dexter Lawrence: Straining jerseys and having fun

by - Senior Writer -
Lawrence is physical at the point of attack
Lawrence is physical at the point of attack

CLEMSON – Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence walked off the practice field late last week, the No. 2 jersey that presumably belongs to quarterback Kelly Bryant bulging at every seam. With every step the jersey strained and popped, Lawrence laughing all the way to the new operations building.

Welcome to life with Big Dex and Clemson’s goofy bunch of defensive linemen. The last bowl practice in Clemson each season is the time when players switch jerseys, and Lawrence wound up with the No. 2 jersey. He was laughing and joking with his teammates as he left the field, but he also knows when he can have fun and when he has to compete.

“It's like a switch; you turn it off and on,” Lawrence said. “You got to know when to have fun. You can be bad and serious all of the time. That's what I learned growing up. You have to know when to turn it off and turn it on. When you're between the lines, that's where you got to be dominant and play football, while also having fun, just be angry for no reason.”

The linemen have most of their fun during practice, terrorizing scout team offensive linemen and quarterbacks.

“Oh definitely. We make each other better,” Lawrence said. “Even in practice, we are just competing to get to the quarterback. The scout team quarterback hates us and the running backs and offensive linemen. We all just bait each other like 'Oh, I bet I get there first,' 'No, I bet I get here first.' It's just competitive, and that's what we love.

“We want to be the harder working group on the field. That's where we compete. If you go ask any of the other segments, they would probably say we are the hardest working group. That's what we pride ourselves on. We're relentless and determined to be our best.”

The group knows how to withstand the rigors of the season.

“We know the toughest part of the season is the mental part, so we just try to refocus each week and get our minds right for the next game. It's one game at a time,” Lawrence said. “This is my second year, and I really didn't know who Clemson was before I came, so I knew they had success. It's amazing. That's one of the main reasons I came here - the success they were having and also how Coach Swinney feels like home and family. It's genuine and real. I knew the big games would be there - the ones I wanted to play in and have my opportunities to play in.

“It just gets better and better. It never changed, we always loved each other from the start. We all understand each other's personalities, and we know when each one is getting serious, so chill out a little bit, and you know when to keep going.”

The defensive line takes pride in being the best unit on the field.

“We pride ourselves on that. We want to be the best on the field,” Lawrence said. “That's our mindset and what we think about the most. We do whatever it takes to have that name. It hurts to think about it, and that's why I'm just trying to live in the moment. Take it all in - all of their knowledge. I don't know when they're leaving. It'll hurt, but I'll get over it. I know they love me. That’s their career, and they feel like it's time to go to a new level then I respect that.

Perhaps his best friend on the team is junior Christian Wilkins.

“Christian always gets under my skin. That's who kind of mentored me when I first came in, so he just knows those little spots,” he said. “Oh my goodness, it's endless. He knows I'm not a big trash talker, so he'll talk some trash and pick on me a little bit and try to hit the spots. He knows what to say. Come on man, you know I do. Yeah, I definitely bring him back in. We just want to make each other better people too. We aren't just trying to be the best on the field, we want to be the best off the field to, and we help each other with that.”

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