Could Trevor Lawrence Have Made It Out of Fall Branch?

National Championship winning quarterback spent part of his life in upper east Tennessee. But if he had stayed . . . .

Marky Billson, host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

Hey, did you know Trevor Lawrence, the quarterback who won the national championship for Clemson yesterday, is from Fall Branch?

Well, kind of. FOX Sports football commentator Charles Davis is also from Elizabethton. He moved away when he was 2, however. And for that matter I’m from, I think, 17 different places including Neuss, Germany, where I lived as a toddler.

I can speak three words of German.

Lawrence lived part of his childhood on his grandparents horse farm, but by the time it came to go to high school he attended Cartersville, Georgia High in the northwest suburbs of Atlanta.

Not to diminish Lawrence’s east Tennessee cred. But if he had, for whatever reason, lived his high school years in east Tennessee, would he have become the quarterback he is today?

Clemson quarterback and national champion Trevor Lawrence. And we even like the hair!

Assuming he would not have transferred to, say, an IMG Academy, would playing at Daniel Boone or certainly North Greene have led to becoming a 5-star prospect? True, these ratings are conducted not on the field but in recruiting combines.

But Cartersville is a perennial powerhouse in Georgia and Lawrence’s high school coach, Joey King, played for Ken Sparks at Carson-Newman. King, who became Cartersville’s head coach in concurrence with Lawrence’s freshman season, inherited the program from Frank Barden, who recognized Lawrence’s talent as an eighth grader in his final year as the Hurricanes’ coach.

Barden is the father of Brooks Barden, who played quarterback in college at Charlotte. Frank Barden also has been a very successful prep coach in Georgia for decades and has a state championship under his belt. He also coached many players that went on to play for the Georgia Bulldogs and the like.

So Lawrence was in good hands in high school.

Perhaps if Lawrence went to Daniel Boone he would have been successful. But name the great FBS football talents that have come from the Trailblazers. Rising senior running back Charlie Cole has been offered by Tulane, and he’s the only player listed on Rivals as ever receiving an FBS offer from Boone.

Cartersville has 29 such players who signed with Division I schools listed. And historically seven NFL players.

Frankly, the Tri-Cities area lacks in producing football talent. And while more players in the 2017 NFL Draft were from Georgia than any other state in the country (29), there are only two players from the area in the NFL from the Tri-Cities, Coty Sensabaugh of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Daniel Kilgore of the Miami Dolphins.

And both went to Dobyns-Bennett.

While it’s no news that players from smaller high schools are overlooked in comparison to those from larger ones, perhaps the reason for this discrepancy is Tennessee’s rule requiring a coach to also be a teacher at his high school. While this rule has recently been rescinded, most of the coaches in local prep ranks also are teachers, and it’s unlikely that trend will truly stop as high school football coach figures to be paid as a part time job.

You wouldn’t have an instructor in a college prep class also work as a custodian, so why would you require a coach to hold down two jobs?

It’s just that much less time to develop contacts with college recruiters and the like.

True, it seems as if more players are coming from the local ranks to major colleges. State champion Greeneville is producing no less than four such players, quarterback Cade Ballard to Army, linebacker Cameron Hite to Wake Forest, receiver Dorian Goddard to Virginia, and long snapper Will Albright will play for Tennessee is 2020.

But only Goddard is as much as a 3-star player, leading one to believe if their scholarships aren’t attributed as much to the program, and contacts of their coaches, as their own abilities.

Meanwhile Cade Larkins, set to become Tennessee’s all-time leader in prep passing yards next season, is not listed on either Rivals or 24/7 recruiting databases.

So rejoice in Lawrence’s brilliance and the fact he spent part of his life in the Tri-Cities area, even growing up a Tennessee Volunteers fan!

But be wary of believing such accomplishments would be possible if he had stayed in town.

Marky Billson hosts Tri-Cities Sports NOW 12–2 p.m. ET weekdays. Watch his show live or archived here.

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