When the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Carl Lawson in the fourth round of this year’s draft, we knew he was a very talented pass rusher. But his journey to reach the NFL may be more incredible than his talent.
Lawson’s path to the Bengals, which was recently chronicled by the team’s website, includes a former Bengals great and a look back at a family rich in history.
Lawson was born from a family of outstanding athletes. His grandfather was a middle heavyweight power lifter for Jamaica, who finished third in the 1966 Commonwealth Games. His grand uncle helped the Jamaica four-by-100 relay team win gold in the Commonwealth games in 1970. And, his father was a fullback/halfback for Georgia Tech when they won a national title in 1990.
Needless to say, athleticism clearly runs in the family. Lawson managed to record the most reps of any outside linebacker at the NFL combine, 35 reps, and a shuttle time that led all at his position, too.
However, Lawson wasn’t simply born with this talent. He adopted an insane work ethic early on. That included him working out with NFL players, such as former Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes, who trained with Lawson’s father to prepare for the NFL when Lawson was only 12-years-old. Spikes remembers wondering why a kid...Lawson... was following him through rigorous workouts.
"He was focused. He was like a dry sponge. He saw greatness in us and tried to absorb everything out of us," Spikes told Bengals.com. "After we worked out he'd ask, 'Why?' I was thinking to myself, 'Why? You might want to ask why before we did it.' It just goes to show he didn't care. 'Whatever it takes for me to be great, that's what I'm going to do.'"
Spikes also believes Lawson is going to add a great touch to the Bengals’ roster.
"He'll be a great addition to what Marvin is doing there. I truly believe he'll bring in a better pass rush for those guys,” Spikes said. “He'll be able to help Carlos Dunlap. I really love the fit. I know how Marvin can push certain people's buttons. It doesn't take much."
It is very exciting to hear such a great player talk about one of the new Bengals’ new additions so fondly. Lawson is coming into an interesting situation with Cincinnati as the team plans to try and use him as a linebacker. This label shouldn’t scare Lawson or fans. He will be used in passing situations to do what he does best, rush the passer. Lawson has also put in some extra work with pass rushing guru, Chuck Smith, this offseason.
"He's going to be a special player. He's an absolute monster,” Smith said. “They were lucky to get him. It's a credit to Marvin and those guys. The Bengals are as well prepared as anyone (in the draft).”
Lawson was projected to go fairly high in the draft, with some mock drafts even having him going late in the first round. However, Lawson lasted until day three, and the Bengals were very willing to scoop him up in Round 4. The Bengals also managed to grab Andrew Billings, who went through and identical situation last offseason, the same way.
Right now Bengals fans can rest assured Lawson is going to put everything he has into football, because he doesn’t care about much else in life, especially materialistic things that often catch the eyes of rookies.
"Everything I'm wearing is free," Lawson said about his attire, while donning a Yankees hat. "I just like the hat. It's a Yankees hat, right? People are big on that. I just like the hat. It looks cool on me. I don't know. I can't remember. I might have bought it ... I'm not a big brand person. If it looks good on me, I'll wear it ... As athletes, we get a bunch of free stuff ... Why am I going to go buy something?
"[New cars are a] waste of money," he continued. "Depreciates as soon as you take it off the lot. You can still find a nice car... For the draft we got two free suits, so I don't have to buy a suit anytime soon. My money is mainly going to things that make me a better football player."
It sounds like Lawson has a winning attitude and a clear desire to make noise in Cincinnati during the next four years for which he’s under contract.