Trevor Lawrence came into the NFL with high expectations, as the former Clemson star had been elite at every level of football since he was a kid, almost predestined to be a top overall pick.
His first year with the Jaguars didn’t go as planned, and coming into his second year there were questions about how much of the Jaguars struggles fell on his shoulders, and how much came from the internal turmoil of Urban Meyer’s disastrous season at the helm in Jacksonville. Lawrence got to answer a lot of those questions this year, leading the Jags to the AFC South title at 9-8, a thrilling Wild Card win over the Chargers in which they erased a 27-point deficit, and a Pro Bowl nod.
It wasn’t perfect, but it proved optimism in Jacksonville that they do in fact have their franchise quarterback, as he flourished in his first year under Doug Pederson. On Wednesday night, Lawrence will trade a football for a ping pong paddle as part of P&G’s Battle of the Paddles (7 p.m. ET on Twitch), as he represents Head & Shoulders — a fitting sponsorship considering his long, golden locks — in the 8-man tournament on Super Bowl week.
Ahead of that, we got to talk with Lawrence over Zoom about his ping pong skills, just how much ping pong got played in Jacksonville this year now that they were allowed to have a table, his development from Year 1 to Year 2, and the lessons learned in his first postseason experience.
How was the Pro Bowl experience and your first time out there? And what do you think of the new format with flag football and the mini game style style format y’all got to do?
Yeah, I mean, I had a great time. Obviously, it’s a huge honor to be selected for that and represent my team and all that. So, I mean, I had a great time. I like I like the new format. Obviously, I never experienced the old one. But just from what I hear and then experiencing two full seasons now, especially going to the playoffs, it’s kind of tough — like I can imagine it’d be not what you want to do to like play another game. So I think guys like that. I don’t know about from the outside view or fan perspective. You know, I think it’s kind of, people are always gonna have something to say. So I think that’s a little bit tough to manage, but I think guys had a good time. It was a good mix of interacting with the fans and doing stuff to put on a little bit of a show, and then also having free time and being able to hang out and meet all the guys. It was fun.
You’ve got the Battle the Paddles coming up this week. I got to talk to Jared Goff yesterday and he said you got him on the table at the Pro Bowl. Do you feel like you’re coming into this as as the favorite in the tournament?
Um, I don’t want to be [laughs]. I want to be under the radar. So I’m hoping that no one knows how much ping pong that we played in our locker room because if people knew how often we played, people would probably expect a lot from me. So I’m hoping that I’m not the favorite, but I don’t know. No, I’m excited. I’m excited to play seems like we got a good group. So it’s gonna be fun.
I don’t think fans quite realize, like you said, how much ping pong gets played in locker rooms. Like, I do a lot of NBA stuff and it’s the same, where every NBA locker room has a table. I know a lot of NFL locker rooms do. Like, can you kind of give us a peek behind the curtain how much ping pong gets played?
It’s a lot. I mean, we we didn’t have one last year so this is new. It all depends on like who your staff is, if they’re alright with it — like you kind of have to clear a few levels. But you know, our coach was cool with it. Our equipment guys were cool with it. So we got us a table and we play [a lot]. The specialists play more than anyone because they have the shortest meetings, they get in from practice early and all that. So they play the most, but then I’d say we [the QB room] were a close second. Really any break before practice or lunch or whatever. After practice, like while everybody’s still in there, we’re like right up on the table right away. So between meetings, we’ll have 20-30 minutes, we’ll hop on for a game or two. Like we play a lot.
You mentioned getting the new staff in this year. What was the biggest thing that you felt playing for Doug Pederson and playing in that offense did for you as a quarterback and getting you settled in so you could make this leap that you did in your second season?
Yeah, I think there’s a lot of factors. It’s not just one thing. I mean, the offense is really I think quarterback friendly. It gives us a lot of options, you know. It lets me — I feel like our staff did a really good job of maximizing what I do well, and also our game plans were great every week. And it puts us in a position I feel like gives me a lot of answers based on what the defense is doing. It just opens up a lot of things. First, lets me get to a lot of our checks, all that. And then also we brought in a lot of really good players and I think that’s what the game is about is the players. And so Christian [Kirk] and Zay [Jones] and Evan [Engram], Brandon Scherff up front, Luke Fortner, we got Travis [Etienne] back, just all the new guys along with the guys that we had last year as well that played played great — Jawaan [Taylor] had a great year — and just guys like that. It all kind of came together at the right time and our chemistry really started to click a few games into the season. But it’s all that. It’s the offense. It’s the guys. It’s just the culture that we’re building. Everything kind of plays together.
What were the things you feel like you took a step forward in from year one to year two? What are the things when you look back, you’d say I’m most proud of from year one to year two?
Yeah, I mean, I think obviously — I’m not a big stats guy — but statistically, like my turnovers went down, which was something I really wanted to improve on. Especially interceptions like that went down this year, significantly from last year — especially in the regular season — and then still want to get better with ball security. Some of the fumbles and stuff, but there’s always gonna be things to work on. And then I think just managing the game. Situational football, all those things I feel like it did a much better job, especially the second half of the season. You know, we were able to win — one thing that was cool about our season was we were able to win probably five out of the last eight or whatever games that we won were by one score. So it was just really a testament to how much better we got as a year went on, because we lost those games early in the season. I think we had five straight losses by one score. So it was cool to see that improvement from myself and from our offense and being able to do whatever it takes to win and in those key moments making the plays. I think that gives myself and gives guys a lot of confidence moving forward is in the biggest moments we’ve already shown we can do we should have that confidence. I think that really carried on as the season went.
What’s the biggest lesson you take away from from your playoff run? Obviously getting two games in the postseason for the first time and seeing what that’s all about because everything is so much more magnified. The mistakes are magnified. The big plays are magnified. Everything matters just that little bit more, and what are the things you can take away from that experience?
Yeah, it was a great experience. Obviously the first game was crazy, just that whole roller coaster in the Wild Card game at home here against the Chargers. That game was insane. And that’s a cool one to look back on, and just to be a part. Like that’ll be one that that people will remember for a long time. So and thenjust the experience from being down 27 points, having a really, really bad first half and still finding a way to win the game. Again, like I was talking about the other stuff in our season that taught us a lot, I think that’s something that you will always remember and you’ll keep in the back of your head. And when things aren’t going well — It’s going to happen again, I mean, hopefully not that bad to that extent, but it’s going to happen again when we’re down by a few scores. Maybe I’ve thrown a couple picks in the first half or whatever it is. And you’ll always remember what we did that playoff game against Chargers and then the guys that are going to be together next year that played this year together, we’ll always remember all those experiences. So I do think it is valuable moving forward, but in the playoffs it’s tough. Usually the team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins and you see, you know against the Chiefs, we were right in that game and just had a couple more mistakes and they played a cleaner game and were able to pull it out. So it’s stuff like that, that you learn from too is you know the wins and losses, and you figure out how to give yourself the best chance to win and you got to play really clean, especially in the playoffs to win.