In a surprise announcement, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence gave back in a big way, presenting USC commit quarterback Jaxson Dart with one of the more prestigious high school awards in the country, the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Award.
Lawrence was selected first overall by the Jaguars in this year’s draft, expected to become the team’s franchise quarterback for at least the foreseeable future.
“It was a cool thing to be a part of,” Lawrence said via Zoom video conference this week.
“On the other end, you know, being able to present the award was special. And, you know, this is the most prestigious award in high school sports. So that’s one thing. But what it stands for, obviously, on-the-field performance is huge.
“But it plays in school, what you do in the community, all those things, I love that it’s more than just an award about football.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year honor recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, which distinguishes Dart as the nation’s best high school football player.
“I always strive for perfection, and that’s always been something that’s pushed me,” Dart said during his Q and A this week. “I just think it opens so many doors. You’ll make friendships that last forever, and experiences that you’ll never forget.”
Great student-athletes possess more traits than simply on-the-field performance. Being able to give back to the community is a large focus for all athletes as they’re able to illustrate just how important education and volunteer work is during their athletic careers.
Dart, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds played for Conner Canyon High School in Draper (UT), and lead the Chargers to a 14-0 record along with the Class 6A state championship.
He would go on to complete 240 out of 345 of his passes for 4,691 yards, 67 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions. He added 1,195 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 128 attempts as well. Dart boasted a 3.98 GPA, and spent plenty of time in the community, volunteering on behalf of a food bank and clothing drive initiative.
“He was surprised,” Lawrence said of Dart’s reaction to receiving the award. “He didn’t know he was getting the award for one, [and] didn’t know I was presenting it. So it was cool. And he had all not all a lot of his buddies behind them. So that was cool.”
Lawrence has always been the center of attention in terms of popularity as a football player. Thought of as one of the best high school quarterbacks during his time, and again as the best college football player this year, eventually selected with the first-overall pick to make his way to the NFL.
Knowing the expectations given to him, his advice to Dart was simple, don’t try to meet any expectations that anyone puts on you.
“When you go to a new place you’re going to feel that pressure to do more, and try to be something that you’re not,” Lawrence said of what he told Dart. “And you just don’t have to do that, you know, you can be yourself and just go to work.”
Lawrence has practiced that during his high school and collegiate career, and it’s appeared to pay off so far.
Now, Lawrence is at the highest level of football, suiting up as the starting quarterback for the Jaguars and slowly adapting to his new life in the NFL. As he sets out to make his journey, preparing for the daily grind that is an NFL schedule has taken some getting used to, as has simply remembering everyone’s names from coaches to fellow teammates.
“That’s something that’s important to me, I always try to remember people’s names. So I’m getting there,” Lawrence explained. “I don’t know everyone’s names yet, but we’re getting close. So just little things like that. And then going out there, you got a new practice routine. And it’s different in the NFL from college. You got more open windows of time.”
Lawrence and his fellow rookies are at the Jaguars’ facility for the majority of the day, but he did explain that the pockets of time he has, allows him to take care of his body, hitting the training room and doing other extra things to better his game.
During OTAs, Lawrence has made it a habit to get out to the football field 20 minutes early to make sure he’s ready. With veterans around him, he’s been able to lean on them to show him how to manage the transition from college to the pros, dealing with so much more liberty than he was given while at Clemson.
“Here you kind of make that yourself and based on what you need. So that’s something that’s new. And like I think the biggest thing, just learn how to be a pro with things like that.”
Dart could be one of the next quarterbacks to make a similar transition to Lawrence within the next four years.
“Time and again, we see Gatorade National Players of the Year go on to great things, such as playing on professional teams, winning National Championships, as well as becoming coaches and role models for future generations of athletes,” Gatorade Senior Vice President and General Manager Brett O’Brien said via press release.
“Jaxson Dart joins a list of impressive student-athletes who have won the prestigious award and we are confident he is headed for a lifetime of similar accomplishments.”