A Clemson quarterback ascends, and Cartersville celebrates

Scott Holder was back at work here Wednesday, hair blower at the ready, tending to his various other customers who didn’t just win a national championship.

He’d been away, traveling cross-country to witness a football game. Don’t know where Tua Tagovailoa’s hair care professional spent Monday night, but Trevor Lawrence’s guy was right there at Levi’s Stadium in northern California watching Clemson throttle Alabama. As he should have been, seeing how Holder now tends to a national treasure.

Today, Lawrence – the Tigers freshman who threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns and was named offensive MVP of the national championship game – is the mane man of college football. The arm is great. The hair, which flows as a silken waterfall that no helmet can contain, is almost as celebrated.

It’s like the lady in Holder’s chair at Hair Techniques Salon said Wednesday morning, “Every woman wishes she had as much hair as Trevor.”

That hair has its own fake Twitter page. Georgia Public television featured it back when Lawrence was setting all kinds of records and winning a couple of state championships at Cartersville High. GQ weighed in this week on the marvelousness of such tresses: “He is Fabio if Fabio could drop a 60-yard dime against college football’s most perennially feared defense.”

In Cartersville, a competing stylist once offered a custom cut called “The Trevor.” But it is Holder – more than a barber, a family friend – who has carefully snipped the ends of the Lawrence locks since the kid started growing out a buzz cut in middle school.

“A couple years ago when I started doing his hair, they told me, you know one day you’re going to be famous,” Holder said with a self-deprecating smile.

In one way or another, many in this town of just over 20,000 basked last week in the reflected brilliance of its football-playing native son, as only a southern town of a certain size can. There’s the big “Congratulations Trevor!” billboard on U.S. 41 in the heart of town. And there have been countless other, more modest huzzahs.

As he finished his pulled pork at Scott’s Walk-Up Bar-B-Q, site of the hour-long football pregame radio show whenever the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes are home, Adrian McDaniel said, “Hope you weren’t playing a drinking game where you took a shot each time they mentioned Trevor Lawrence or Cartersville (on the national broadcast). You’d have been drunk in five minutes.”

“It’s huge for us. Since he’s burst onto the scene he’s done nothing but put Cartersville more in the spotlight and do it in a positive way,” said the city’s mayor (and Purple Hurricanes radio play-by-play man) Matt Santini.

The mayor went on: “A lot of times you’ll hear an athlete described as he’s from the Atlanta area. Monday night it was Cartersville, Cartersville, Cartersville.

“It’s a tremendous source of pride for us. It was great scrolling through social media while the game was on and there wasn’t anything about politics or anger or anything like that. It was all filled with pictures of Trevor and Miller Forristall.”

Forristall is the Alabama tight end who was the junior starting quarterback at Cartersville until a 14-year-old ninth-grader named Trevor Lawrence supplanted him.

This town is on a heck of a run. In the 2018 major league draft, Cartersville catcher Anthony Siegler was a Yankees first-round pick. Ashton Hagans, who lists Cartersville as his hometown and Newton as his high school, signed with Kentucky as a most coveted point guard. Then two of the city’s own face off for a national title.

So, when Sam Howard, a young pitcher who got his first call-up to the majors last season with Colorado, walked into Scott’s for a sandwich Tuesday, it hardly caused a fuss. Just another hungry, noted Cartersville athlete.

If Howard at all minded dropping in the Cartersville celebrity athlete rankings after Monday night, he didn’t show it. “Man, I was pulling for Trevor to do good, to make history,” he said.

When Howard returned to his old high school a few years back, he paused outside one classroom while a youngster was summoned outside to meet him. And Howard had the same immediate reaction upon first laying eyes on Lawrence as a lot of the country must have had Monday night: “I couldn’t believe it – he couldn’t be a freshman.” For even then, Lawrence was well on his way to his current dimensions of 6-6, 215.

This week, when they talked about Lawrence at lunchtime in Cartersville, the stories touched as much on his modest, low-key presence around town as on his exploits in winning a couple of state titles for the Hurricanes (going 50-2 in four years) and finishing off Clemson’s 15-0 championship season.

You know, the little things that mean a lot. Like the time at a graduation party, said Garrison McDaniel, one of the younger customers at Scott’s, that the star quarterback made a point to come over and talk to him even though the two hardly knew each other.

Or, as Ricky Haney tells it when he emerges from his work back in the kitchen, there was the day Lawrence came back from Clemson and greeted him at the door with a friendly, “Hello, Mr. Haney.” Respect and remembrance go a long way, especially coming from the kid who turned out epic crowds at the high school stadium and had them lined up out the door and down the road at the nearby barbecue place on those Friday nights.

For other parts of the country, Monday night was a coming out for Lawrence, the moment when the result caught up to the reputation of 2018’s top-rated recruit. But Cartersville knew it all along. These folks had seen the same thing before when, just as at Clemson, Lawrence took over a Purple Hurricanes team midway in his freshman season and never looked back.

They knew it at the Tabernacle Baptist Church, the Lawrence family church. As the Tigers were running out the last 10 minutes of Monday’s championship, there was Lawrence running headlong into the Bama defense, risking himself in a game already won. Gains of seven, eight, 12 yards – and he wasn’t in the mood to slide at the close of any of them. “He’s going to sell out,” said Don Startup, the musical director at the church and another member of the Cartersville High radio broadcast team. “I was a little shocked he did it, but knowing Trevor, he thoroughly enjoyed the moment. He enjoys being physical, letting folks know he’s more than a great arm.”

They certainly knew it around the school, where Joey King took the head coaching job the same year Lawrence walked through the door of his locker room. This coach is no slouch – he took the Purple Hurricanes to the state final this year even after losing, as he calls Lawrence, “a generational-type guy” as well as a couple dozen other seniors. But, also, never underestimate the value of timing.

“We knew he could be really, really, really good. Everyone else got a chance to experience it this past Monday as well,” King said.

When Cartersville looks at Lawrence, there are no limits to what it sees. The expectations of his hometown are huge – and he hasn’t failed to meet them yet.

When Josh Brock looks into the future, why, it’s almost frightening. The former Georgia offensive lineman who is a financial adviser in town and yet another voice on the high school game broadcasts sees in Lawrence, “the next Brady, Brees, (Peyton) Manning.”

The 2019 season is only going to come at Lawrence with more strident demands. Clemson will be a championship favorite again. There will be Heisman talk.

And already the world is sizing him up as a potential No. 1 NFL draft pick, although he won’t be eligible for another two years. As former Cowboys team-builder Gil Brandt tweeted after the championship game: “Trevor Lawrence is the best true freshman QB I've ever seen. If I was running an NFL team, I'd be making trades for as many 2021 picks I could get my hands on.”

How does the 19-year-old figure to handle all that? “Like he’s handled everything else,” said his high school coach.

“Nothing changes,” King said. “He’s been the same person – obviously he’s grown as a man and as an individual – but he’s been the same person from the day he stepped into this program. I don’t expect it to change him or faze him at all.”

Around Cartersville, they trust in the calm nature that was nurtured in their company.

Ask the guy who does his hair. He knows. You can tell a lot about a fellow by how handles himself in the barber’s chair.

And for Lawrence it is simple. No shampoo. No fuss. No long reappraisals in the mirror. Just cut off an inch-and-a-half each time, Holder said.

“He’s easy,” Holder said. “He’s real low maintenance.”