Clemson, Trevor and Those Who Pave the Way for Influence

For other Cartersville, Ga., residents and me, it was surreal to see Trevor Lawrence, a kid who had just been known around town as “Trevor” since he was 15, on the national stage Jan. 7. It shouldn’t have been.

Over four years we saw his talent at Cartersville High’s Weinman Stadium, the spirals thrown at ridiculously impossible angles with equally ridiculous velocity. Fans of the Purple Hurricanes became used to 42-0 leads halfway through the second quarter.

In 2017, his senior year, Trevor and the Canes led Calhoun — a team that would later that year win the Class AAA state championship — 56-0 at the half.

Scott Barkley

So when the kid many call “Sunshine” after his resemblance to the character from the movie “Remember the Titans” shone so brightly on the national stage against the favored Alabama Crimson Tide, many of us weren’t surprised.

Something I do take note of regarding these young athletes is how they handle the spotlight away from the field. Keep in mind that Trevor is 19 years old. Last year’s National Championship also had a lot of young guys featured, like Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa.

Their small towns can be a fishbowl. Get out of sorts publicly in any way (like teenagers do), even for a moment, and the talking can start about how you may be a good athlete, but “let me tell you about his attitude.”

I remember a hot, steamy Saturday morning in August 2017. Cartersville had played a big game the night before against Allatoona. A two-hour minicamp for football players in the Cartersville Parks and Rec Department was being held at CHS, requiring Trevor and many of his teammates to be there by 8 a.m. At the end of it, Trevor was bombarded by parents — yours truly included — wanting a picture of him with their sons. I was impressed by the way he stayed for every last one without a hint of being held up or inconvenienced.

Credit goes to the parents and churches (the Lawrence family are members of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville) at times like that, but the influence of their coaches can’t be overstated.

As a member of Cartersville First Baptist, I’ve heard Trevor’s high school coach, Joey King, share his testimony with our men’s ministry. Clemson’s head coach, Dabo Swinney, is such a tremendous man of God that it’s tough finding someone better I’d want my sons playing under.

Trevor is one of the rare teens to stay off Twitter. His most recent post is from July 12. Still, it offers a look as to where his priorities lie:

“Just think about the privilege it is to have a Lord like ours. Imagine the mercy and grace it takes to offer us this life with Him. In all of our disgusting sin and how we’ve betrayed Him, He STILL pursues us. If He has done that, I’ll live this life for Him. There’s nothing that compares.”

His message has 928 retweets and 4,485 likes. That’s influence, and it begins with the adults around our young people. Without that guidance and the rudder Scripture provides, they’re likely to drift into other areas.

For all of you coaches out there, thank you. I was a high school assistant coach and know the paltry stipend you get doesn’t come within a galaxy of the amount of time you put in outside the classroom. You mentor and counsel; you address parents who have an inflated view of their child’s athletic ability; you sacrifice a lot of time away from your family. As I learned, coaching is just the thing you get to do in addition to all of that.

This goes for you, too, volunteer coaches. You may not know the first thing about soccer, but someone said if you don’t do it there might not be a team. So, there you are on the sideline with a whistle and 14 faces looking at you for direction.

I’ve been there, staying up late on a Friday night, sweating over a lineup to make sure playing time is as evenly distributed as possible among a group of 10-year-olds while still giving you the best chance to win.

And of course, this recognition goes to our volunteers among student and children’s ministries. Without you, those don’t happen. You’re a coach in every sense of the word. 

You model and instruct the right way to do something, whether that’s reading your Bible, addressing a topic in the light of Scripture, or just how to have fun and appreciate God’s blessings.

Odds are the results of your influence won’t play out in front of a crowd like the one watching the National Championship game. In all likelihood, though, they will carry just as far.

It could last generations, even, from when you shared the gospel with a child in Vacation Bible School or led a discipleship group with teenagers. And, as we all know, that’s the brightest light to shine. n

— Scott Barkley serves as editor of The (Georgia) Christian Index. Prior to joining the Index staff, he served as a North American Mission Board missionary.