Top draft prospect Shaq Lawson wants to help Paralympics grow

Shaq Lawson has enough talent to enjoy a long and successful NFL career, but the former Clemson defensive end also has plans that extend beyond the football field.

Lawson majored in parks, recreation, and tourism management at Clemson and has a vision to put his education to use. He wants to help oversee the continued growth of the Paralympics.

"I just want to make it bigger," Lawson said. "I love sports. I've got a passion about sports. And I have people with disabilities in my family. I just always had a passion about doing that. I studied it within my major when I had the time. And that's why I feel like I wanted to do something to give back; something to put a smile on people's faces."

Patrick Sandusky, chief external affairs officer for the United States Olympic Committee, commended Lawson for setting such a goal.

"It is great that the continued growth of the Paralympic movement in the U.S. has such awareness that a potential first-round draft pick like Shaq Lawson is already interested in a post-NFL move to being part of the Paralympic sport movement in the U.S.," Sandusky said. "We hope he tunes in this summer to watch the Paralympic Games in Rio and cheers on Team USA."

Since the second Paralympic Games were held in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964, the Paralympics have grown into the world’s third largest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, according to USOC figures. Athlete participation has increased from less than 400 athletes in 1964 to more than 4,250 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. It is estimated that 4,350 athletes from 176 countries will compete in Rio.

Lawson, who just had his shoulder cleared after a medical recheck, is projected to be a Top 20 draft pick. ESPN draft expert Todd McShay had Lawson going 13th overall to the Miami Dolphins in his "Grade A" three-round mock draft, while fellow analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had Lawson going 16th overall to the Detroit Lions in his.

The Atlanta Falcons hold the 17th overall selection and are believed to have an interest in Lawson. Two of Lawson's former Clemson teammates were drafted by the Falcons last season in pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. (first round) and nose tackle Grady Jarrett (fifth).

Lawson publicized visits to the Cowboys, Bears, and Panthers.