USA Today // Bob DeChiara

JuCo coach on Illini QB commit Dwayne Lawson: 'Nobody out there like him'

Garden City Community College coach Jeff Sims discusses new Illini quarterback commit Dwayne Lawson's talent, maturation and next steps at the next level.

What's the story on Dwayne coming so late (early September) to the party there?

Jeff Sims: "Well, he transferred here from Virginia Tech when he couldn't get into Illinois. He's a freak athletically. There's no school or place that has a quarterback that's as impressive looking, that's a better athlete. What Dwayne needs to do now is he needs to get in somewhere and learn the offense and turn that athleticism into production."

What was your initial impression of him when he arrived?

Sims: "There's no doubt now. There's nobody out there like him. You have to cover the entire country to find another dude who looks like him. He's a beast. He's got a powerful arm. He's fast. He's the Florida state triple jump or long jump champion. There's literally nothing athletically he can't do. But now it's time to work hard and turn that into production. With Coach McGee's ability as a coach, the sky is the limit. The key is we got to stay out of expectations and get to hard work."

How did he handle being a backup? I'm sure that's a humbling experience going from star recruit in the ACC to backup at a junior college, even if it's the national champion.

Sims: "He was the backup because he got here late. I don't even like it when people say he was the backup. He was part of the offensive package. We played the other kid more because when the other kid is in there, the entire offense is an option. With Dwayne in there, he is the option. But let me tell you this, I've never been prouder of a guy than I have than Dwayne. We played in the national championship game, and he's blocking punts and blocking field goals. I mean, he wanted to win the football game. He wanted to be a part of the team. And I will tell you that he's a good person. The problem is that sometimes when you're that big and that athletic, people are making you a first-round draft choice and you're in high school. There's a long way from high school to first-round draft choice. So he's a great young man with lots of talent, but he's still a human being that has to work through the education part and the maturation process. I was very proud to have him on our team, and he was an integral part in us winning a national championship."

Why was he? What did he do for you?

Sims: "Well, he blocked field goals; he blocked punts; he went in and ran option for us; he played quarterback when we needed him. He did whatever I asked him to do when he could have been a prima donna -- and he wasn't."

At Virginia Tech, things didn't go so well for him and he had some issues. What kind of maturation did you see in just the couple months you've had him so far?

Sims: "What I saw was a guy, he felt like he should come in and just be a superstar. The fact of the matter is that you don't become a superstar just because you walk in. You become a superstar because of working hard. He learned part of that process while he was here. I think he'll continue that at Illinois."

What's the key for him to compete right away for Illinois?

Sims: "The key for him to compete right away is to get there as soon as possible. The longer it takes him to graduate from him, the longer it takes for him to get there and that would be the problem. I would tell you that the smartest thing they could ever do is not play him next year. He needs to graduate from this place. He went to Virginia Tech and played sparingly. He came here and he played sparingly. Everyone wants to throw him in (right away). Listen, the day he walks on the campus, he's the best athlete on the campus. That's the truth.

"But the problem is, OK, it's like buying a million-dollar racecar but not knowing how to drive it. You know how fast how it can go, so you just jump in and you're going a thousand miles an hour. Well, you're probably going to wreck the damn thing. All right? The kid needs to get somewhere and get in the weight room and go from being 215 to being 245. He needs to go somewhere where he can go from knowing four plays better than anyone else to learning the full playbook. To me, the key for us is to get him graduated from us, get him to Illinois and not be so excited to play him but be patient and play him when he's ready. Because if you do, when he's ready, he'll be a great, great player."

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