Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence addresses the possibility of leaving after title game
In theory, Clemson star quarterback Trevor Lawrence could have some serious options to consider after he plays the final game of his sophomore season Monday against LSU for the national championship.
Should he return to Clemson for his third season of college football? Or could he possibly turn pro early and jump to a new pro football league scheduled to start this year? Or could he just sit out the season and preserve his draft stock?
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Lawrence said when asked about Monday being the end of his college career. “I think I just love Clemson. I love college football and whether it’s one more year or two more years, whatever it may be, I just love it here. I love doing what I’ve done. I think it’s a unique experience being able to go to school and grow and become a man and get to do it with some of your best friends.”
“No matter how much money you’re offered?” USA TODAY Sports asked him before the Fiesta Bowl.
“I mean, if I’m meant to play in the NFL one day, it’ll work out, so I’m not worried about making money now or whatever it may be,” Lawrence replied. “I just want to enjoy where I’m at and make the most of this time.”
Even if he’s not interested in leaving Clemson yet, these are potential new considerations for players such as Lawrence and others of his caliber. In the NFL, first-year players are required to be at least three years removed from high school. In Lawrence’s case, that would be 2021. No other pro leagues recently existed as viable alternatives – or were willing to take players younger than that.
But that looks to change this year and beyond with the launch of one league and the potential launch of another not bound by NFL rules. The new XFL will debut Feb. 8-9 with eight teams in four games on Fox, ESPN and ABC.
“It’s conceivable in the future that we’ll look at those guys on a case-by-case basis,” XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck said of players not yet eligible for the NFL.
Asked about Lawrence this week, Luck called him “incredibly talented” but downplayed the notion of offering him a contract after Monday.
“He’s had a long season behind him,” Luck said by phone. “This is Game 15 for him (Monday). To theoretically walk off of campus (three) and a half weeks or so before the start of the first opening weekend is a task.”
Luck said Lawrence is likely to be a top NFL pick next year and “his decision, I think, is 'Do you go back to college or not and risk injury?’”
He said the XFL has not yet pursued such younger players and instead is finding quality players who had fuller college careers, many of whom have put in some time in the NFL. Luck said a typical player in the XFL might earn around $55,000.
“We just think those guys are better players at the end of the day,” Luck said.
Another league, Pacific Pro Football, has been planned by founder Don Yee, the agent for NFL quarterback Tom Brady. That four-team startup has aimed to develop young players and pay them while doing so before they are eligible to play in the NFL. Last February, USA TODAY Sports asked Yee how much the league would be willing to pay Lawrence before he’s eligible for the NFL in 2021.
“It would be a compelling and significant proposal,” he replied then. “He is a unique talent and we'd simply want to give him a choice."
That league since has pushed back its projected launch date in Southern California from this July to summer 2021, in part to avoid this summer's crowded media calendar with the Olympics and U.S. presidential campaigns. League officials declined a further recent request for comment but said their business plan hasn't changed.
That league’s website said it would be the “first league to professionalize players who are less than four years removed from their high school graduation.”
“Players will receive a salary, benefits, and even paid tuition and books for one year at community college,” the league’s website said. “Players also will be able to market themselves for compensation, and begin creating a financial retirement plan if they so choose.”
The league estimated salary and benefits packages for players averaging $50,000 annually, though “each candidate’s specific compensation will be individually determined.”
By doing so, that league plans to disrupt the current pipeline between college and NFL football, creating another option for talented players who might prefer professional development with better compensation and enhanced safety rules – if they're interested.
Lawrence said he would not be, but others soon might view it differently now that they soon might have the option.
In Lawrence's case, some things money can't buy. He is only 20 and is 25-0 as Clemson’s starting quarterback. On Monday in New Orleans, he could win his second consecutive national championship. Questions will be asked about his future - win or lose. But the answer already seems clear.
Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org