Lawrence Lilly has the jovial kind of personality that draws people to him like a magnet.
It's hard not to smile when he's around.
When discussing the 2005 football season, however, the rising senior tight end looks at the floor and expresses disappointment in himself.
"I got too comfortable being average and that led to me getting lazy," he explains, the ever-present smile completely wiped off his face. "That's not me. That's not what got me to this level.
"I bought in to what was happening here last year, but I didn't react to it in a positive way. Consequently, I found myself on the bench and sort of the forgotten man. I'm better than that."
Lawrence said he has had many hard talks with himself and has looked objectively in the mirror at his actions.
"It was me," he surmised. "I didn't do what it takes to be a big part of the team and the offense. The coaches did the right thing, based on how I was performing, by not playing me more.
"I won't lie about it - I thought I could help the team and got down about not playing while it was happening, but when I look back on it I have nobody to blame but myself."
Lilly said he was privately blaming everyone but himself for a while, but during the recruiting season he realized that was not doing his cause any good and the coaches had lost some faith in him.
"Every week, the coaches were bringing in tight ends to try to sign. At first, I kind of played it off, thinking they needed to because I would be a senior this year and they needed to get some young guys in here, but then I realized they were trying to bring in guys to replace me," he explained. "That motivated me in a good way."
Lilly was motivated even more when the coaches felt the need to bring in a JUCO TE - Jason Hawkins.
"I made up my mind to do something to let everyone know I am still here and I am the best option for TE in 2006," Lawrence declared.
The "something" he chose was to work harder than ever in preparing for the spring.
"If I want to gain back the trust of the coaches, I have to do something special, something above and beyond the norm," he stated. "I'm working harder than ever to prove I'm the guy."
Lawrence's first task is to take off about 10 pounds from his 282-pound frame.
"I want to be in the 270 range. Surprisingly, I'm moving very well right now - better than I ever have. I've learned how to carry 280 pounds, but I need to lose about 10 pounds in order to be able to run by linebackers. At 280, I can just run with them - that's not good enough," he noted.
LL feels he has received a new lease on his football life with new TE Coach Hugh Freeze.
"Coach Freeze sat me down and told me that I was starting over. He had no preconceived notions of my ability or my worth to the team," said Lawrence. "He said he was going to fight for me, but that I would have to do my part and fight for him and work hard too. He said if I did what I need to do I would get rewarded with playing time.
"He knows I have ability. Ultimately, it's up to me and him to tap that ability and for me to reach my potential."
Another motivator for Lawrence is the new offense under Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner.
"Man, he likes to use the tight end in the passing game. The backup TEs at Miami caught more passes than our starters did here," he explained. "That excites me. That motivates me."
Lawrence knows he's got a lot of competition. There's Hawkins, converted QB Robert Lane and junior Robert Hough all vying for playing time at tight end.
"I'm going to have to compete and play my best to get on the field a lot, but I know in my heart I am capable and I am now motivated to accomplish that," he finally smiled.
His spring goal is about as base as it gets.
"I just want to resurface on the team. I want to get back in the loop and gain the coaches' trust back. I get asked all the time 'what happened to that can't-miss freshman from three years ago who caught the TD pass against Mississippi State?' I don't ever want to hear that again," he closed.
Will Lilly "resurface?" As he says, the ball is in his court.
Lilly looks for redemption
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