“Pretty surreal,” Lawrence told ESPN’s Marty Smith on the draft telecast from Seneca, South Carolina, shortly after being picked. “Obviously this has been the dream for the past few years. And like I’ve said, I didn’t even dream this as a kid, so [it’s] really special and just having all the people that I care about here watching, it’s really hard to explain.
“I was super nervous before and just am so excited to be a part of the Jacksonville community. … I’m super excited to be coming to Jacksonville and play for you guys and can’t wait to go to work.”
Later in the draft, the Jaguars added Lawrence’s former Clemson teammate Travis Etienne when they drafted the running back with the 25th overall pick. Before Thursday, the Jaguars had taken only one Clemson player via the draft in team history: Defensive end Andre Branch in 2012.
Make no mistake: There’s a ton of work to do. The Jaguars were 1-15 last season, have lost 10 or more games in nine of the past 10 seasons, and made the playoffs just once since 2007. The offense has been one of the worst in the NFL in the past decade: The Jaguars have ranked 30th or worse in points scored, yards per game, red zone efficiency, third-down conversion percentage, completion percentage and passer rating over that 10-year stretch.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has no doubt Lawrence can handle the pressure of turning the franchise around. Lawrence was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, followed Deshaun Watson at Clemson and won a national title as a freshman. He’s also lost just four games as a starting quarterback since he entered high school.
“This’ll be a very easy transition,” Swinney said. “He’s well prepared. What he’s stepping into, the expectations, all those things, that’s his normal and it has been for a long time. He’s built the right way. … He is the epitome of consistency and if you know anything about Urban Meyer he values consistency and toughness.”
Lawrence was 34-2 as a starter for the Tigers — the fifth-best winning percentage by a quarterback with at least 30 starts in FBS history. He never lost a regular-season game and threw for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns with only 17 interceptions, and he ran for 231 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“I’m not expecting anyone to hand me anything,” Lawrence said. “I want to come in there and earn the respect and trust of my teammates and the right to lead the team.
“… My mindset always going in is I’m going to earn anything that I get.”
Owner Shad Khan hired head coach Urban Meyer, who won national championships at Florida and Ohio State, in January to fix the mess. The hope is that the selection of Lawrence, along with Meyer’s hiring, will end the franchise’s prolonged struggles and culminate with the Jaguars’ first Super Bowl appearance.
“You’ve got two great winners,” Swinney said. “Urban Meyer is a great winner and Trevor Lawrence is a great winner, and I think that’s going to lead to great things.”
The Jaguars have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Mark Brunell led the team to a pair of AFC Championship Games in the first five years of the team’s existence. Brunell was Jacksonville’s primary starter through the 2002 season and still is the franchise’s leader in attempts, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.
The Jaguars have drafted three previous quarterbacks in the first round: Byron Leftwich (seventh overall in 2003), Blaine Gabbert (No. 10, 2011) and Blake Bortles (No. 3, 2014), the only one of those three to win a playoff game.
As for drafting Etienne, Meyer said he was looking to add speed.
“The idea of offense is you can create matchup nightmares, and I’ve had some good fortune over the years to have a guy that can do both, flex out [and carry the ball],” Meyer said. “[Etienne] is as good outside as a receiver as he is as a running back. High-end character guy that has elite speed.”
Urban added: “We’ll find out, but he’s a piece of the puzzle that’s kind of hard to come by.”
Meyer also lamented the Jaguars’ lack of big plays on offense in 2020 — they had 16 combined rushes of 20 or more yards and receptions of 30 or more yards — and general manager Trent Baalke said getting better there was an offseason priority. Lawrence and Etienne are a good start.
“It’s hard to have 14, 15, 16-play drives in the National Football League,” Baalke said. “You’ve got to be able to flip the field. You’ve got to be able to score from every level of the field. The only way you can do that is to add explosive players, and we feel Travis is one of those.”
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