Another one from Daniel

CLEMSON - Growing up in Central, Shaq Lawson was a regular at Clemson football games.

He grew up watching D.W. Daniel stars like DeAndre Hopkins and Jarvis Jenkins, and played alongside current Tiger defensive tackle DeShawn Williams as a Daniel defensive end.

It was a dream to one day play at Clemson, to take the same field as his friends and former teammates.

As it turns out, it was a dream deferred. Lawson narrowly missed meeting NCAA academic standards for initial qualification last fall, and was forced to spend a semester at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy to improve his grades. Saturday, that dream finally came true. Lawson ran down Memorial Stadium's hill for the first time before Clemson's much-anticipated opener against Georgia.

"I was a little nervous running down the hill," Lawson admitted Tuesday. "I didn't want to fall. I walked, kind of."

Once the game began, Lawson's pace was much faster. The freshman defensive end played 30 snaps and recorded three tackles in the Tigers' 38-35 win over then-No.5 Georgia.

It took longer than expected, but Lawson says his arrival was worth the wait. He knows the possibility of playing for a national title with former teammates Williams, C.J. Davidson, D.J. Greenlee and Jerrod Williams is truly special.

"We never got that chance to play for a championship at Daniel," he said. "I feel like since we're all here together now, we can play for a national championship."

Lawson seems happy these days, like a guy who knows how fortunate he is.

Spending a semester at Hargrave can do wonders for your perspective.

Lawson said he was awake by 5 a.m. every day – as early as 4:30 on Saturday mornings – for a military-based, regimented schedule that mixed classwork and football practice. By 11 p.m., it was lights-out, with the entire schedule repeating six hours later.

"It was tough at first, it's a military background," he said. "It was kind of hard for me at first. I wasn't used to getting up early. But it prepared me great."

It was far from easy, but Lawson accepted his lot.

"God had his plan," he said. "He wanted me to go there. I just had to deal with it and suck it up for six months."

Lawson thrived at Hargrave; he was rated as the nation's No.1 overall prep school prospect. He arrived at Clemson in January and went through spring practice with his new teammates, giving himself a major leg up on immediate playing time.

"Spring helped a lot," he said. "I'm not like other freshmen who had to come in late and start. I had a chance to look through the playbook and get a feel for what college football felt like."

Slotted behind junior Corey Crawford at defensive end, Lawson has excellent pass-rushing ability and energy.

"I came in this fall camp ready and focused," he said. "I stayed on top of the playbook all the time, and came in and competed and had great scrimmages."

Crawford has served as a mentor for Lawson, as well.

"Corey's staying on me a whole lot," he said. "He just keeps pushing me and telling me to keep working, so I can be great."

Last week, Lawson admitted to being a bit nervous. He spoke to Williams, who told him, "Don't be nervous. Just go out there and play.'" That's what Lawson did – and for a night, it felt like he was playing on an old field a few miles north.

"(Williams and I) played a lot with each other," he said. "It felt like we were back in high school, playing next to each other."

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