A player that was a virtual afterthought during the recruiting year of 2001-02 would ultimately go on to become one of NC State’s most exciting and entertaining athletes ever.
Manny Lawson was a long, lanky prospect from Eastern Wayne High School in Goldsboro, NC. Measuring in at 6-6 and 220 pounds soaking wet, Lawson came to Raleigh somewhat raw as a football player but with freakish athletic ability. Schools like Tennessee, UNC, East Carolina and a few others, in addition to the Wolfpack, offered scholarships but a December official visit to Raleigh along with providing his intended major of engineering sold Lawson on State.
He joined the Wolfpack as an unheralded, un-rated prospect but it didn’t take long for Lawson to turn the heads of the State coaching staff. Reports of his athletic ability began to surface as early as fall camp of 2002. At the time, the biggest challenge facing the State coaches appeared to be just where to line Lawson up on the field. Physically, he was small for a defensive end and seemed lanky for linebacker. In the end he would settle in at outside linebacker during his freshman season and finish the year with 35 tackles and one tackle for loss. However, it was special teams where he would make his biggest impact. Lawson would lead the nation that year with three blocked punts.
2003 turned out even better for Lawson as he tallied 53 tackles, seven for loss and three sacks.
As he began to fill out his frame, the coaching staff made the decision to move Lawson to defensive end prior to the Tangerine Bowl and he would stay there for the rest of his career at NC State.
Ultimately, the switch proved to be a wise one. Lining up as a full time starter opposite all-american DE Mario Williams in 2004, Lawson finished the year with 50 tackles, 16 quarterback pressures, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a junior. That production would land him a spot on the all-conference second team.
2005 proved to be Lawson’s breakout season. With a year of experience playing the defensive end position under his belt, he was an absolute terror coming off the edge as a senior. He would end the year with 58 tackles, 21 tackles for loss (2nd best season effort in Wolfpack history) and 10 sacks en route to all-conference first team honors.
For his career, Lawson finished up fourth on the Pack’s all-time list for sacks (21) and third in tackles for loss (41). He trailed only Terrence Holt as NC State’s top kick blocker of all time with a total of seven.
As an NFL prospect, Lawson blew the professional scouts away with his workout at the NFL combine. He measured in at 6-5, 241 pounds and ran a blistering 4.43-second 40-yard dash along with a 39.5-inch vertical jump. That effort solidified Lawson as a solid first round draft choice and he would be selected 22nd by the San Francisco 49'ers.