Milton, Ga. -- On Thursday, ESPN 150 defensive end Carl Lawson of Milton (Ga.) High School was presented with his Under Armour All-America game jersey in front of his teammates, coaches, family and media members. It was the latest stop on the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game.
Lawson was excited to have an opportunity to put his stamp on the game that includes past participants such as A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Matt Barkley and Jadeveon Clowney.
"It means a lot to be recognized for such a great honor," Lawson said. "It is all I could ask for."
Last year, Lawson racked up 80 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 251-pound defensive end was unblockable at the Charlotte Nike Football Training Camp, and the Auburn commit has continued to live up to his billing as the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 150 this fall, with 20 sacks through eight games.
"I try to be dominant," Lawson said. "I try to be the best that has ever played, even though I might not play another snap. I try to be the best I can be with the time I am given. Whenever I am done playing, I just want to be able to say I played the game of football to the best of my ability."
Growing up, Lawson was inspired by an interview with one of the greatest pass-rushers to ever play the game.
"I used to watch Deacon Jones and he was talking in an interview about what it felt like to get a sack," Lawson said. "Just seeing how vicious he played and how aggressive he was on the field, that stood out and he became one of the great players I wanted to pattern my game after. Then I remember getting that same feeling when I was about eight and I got my first sack against Grayson in youth league playing nose guard. It was very special."
Lawson's father, Carl Sr., joked that his son's love affair with taking down the quarterback almost crippled the family income.
"He was always ultra-aggressive," Lawson Sr. said. "I made the mistake of offering to pay him 10 dollars a sack. We had to change that pretty quickly. One year in youth football he had about 50 sacks in nine games."
One day, when Lawson was a sophomore, he and his father stood on the practice field. Lawson Sr. played fullback for Georgia Tech on the 1990 national championship team, and he decided he wanted to show his son he could still play the game. He lined up as an offensive lineman, got set, and told his son to give it his best shot. Not only did his son get the best of him, but he blew out his father's ACL in the process. The torch had been officially passed.
"I thought he was going to be good, but I did not see this coming," Lawson Sr. said. "His sophomore year, he played junior varsity and had 19 sacks in about seven games before moving him up to varsity. The team only had four sacks total at that point, and he added two sacks in about 10 snaps. At that point I knew he was going to be a good one."
The coaches at Milton have tried to teach the team about overcoming adversity and how they can translate that from the game to everyday life. Carl's father has dealt with kidney failure the past few years, so Carl has seen what it is like to have someone close to him in and out of the hospital. But what happened last week has tested Lawson and the Alpharetta, Ga., community.
That's when Milton assistant coach Mike Scott was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer that had spread to his lungs and liver. Doctors said he likely only has months to live.
Lawson and his teammates are determined to succeed for their beloved coach.
"We are going to pull this out for Coach Scott," Lawson said. "He has his battlefield and we have ours, not just on the football field, but also as student-athletes in the classroom and in the community. We just need to embody what he would want us to represent. Football builds a bond with people that you probably would never have in your life and it gives you a sense of leadership and value that you just cannot get with any other sport."
Lawson has been committed to Auburn since March, but that has not kept other programs from chasing after the five-star defensive lineman. Lawson said Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Oklahoma State and North Carolina are among several other schools are still in pursuit of his signature.
If Lawson does take official visits, he says it will most likely take place in January. For now, he remains committed to Auburn. But seeing the Tigers, now 1-7, struggling on the field has not been easy on Lawson.
"As a fan of Auburn, it is disappointing to see these losses, because you set yourself and your team to a higher standard," Lawson said. "Being in a conference as dominant as the SEC is, it just hurts a lot."
With the playoffs approaching, Lawson is not paying any attention to recruiting.
"I might take some visits after the season, but all my focus now is here on Milton football," Lawson said. "Just as a college football fan, I would like to see some big-time college games like Florida versus Florida State or South Carolina versus Clemson."