The high school I graduated from was a medium sized school school system, that sat just ten minutes from Chagrin Falls, Ohio. My father taught at Chagrin Falls High School, which was about a ten minute drive from where I grew up. They were our rivals in every sport, basketball, football, volleyball, you name it. However, when the games were over we all got along pretty well for the most part. Now I want you to imagine that same scenario, but in Georgia, and with two of the best high school football prospects in about five years. That is the life that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
Trevor Lawrence was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on October 6, 1999. He later attended Cartersville High School in Georgia, which is about an hours drive to Atlanta. He played basketball and of course football for the Hurricanes. During his freshman season, Lawrence threw for 3,042 yards and 26 touchdowns. He added another great season to his resume during his sophomore season, where he passed for 3,655 yards and 43 touchdowns. During his junior year, he really started to pop up on top programs’ radar. In his third season with the Hurricanes, he threw for 3,904 yards and an astonishing 51 touchdowns. He committed to Clemson on December 16, 2016. Also during his career at Cartersville, Lawrence broke Georgia’s record for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a career, which was previously held by none other than former Clemson quarterback and now Houston Texans signal caller, Deshaun Watson.
20 Minutes from Cartersville, in Kennesaw, Georgia, Justin Fields was born on March 5, 1999. Little did these two quarterbacks know, that hey would become two of the best college quarterbacks of in Ohio State’s and Clemson’s history. Fields attended high school at Harrison High in Kennesaw, Georgia, where he played football and baseball. Fields started at quarterback for two years at Harrison. During his career he totaled 4,187 yards passing for 41 passing touchdowns. Fields was the epitome of a dual threat quarterback in high school. Along with his passing statistics, he also totaled 2,096 yards rushing for 28 touchdowns. The summer before his senior year, he attended the Elite 11 quarterback competition where he was named MVP. Towards the end of his senior season at Harrison, Fields suffered a broken finger in an ESPN nationally televised game. His finger required season-ending surgery. After his senior year he was named “Mr. Georgia Football” by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta. Fields committed to Georgia on October 6, 2017, after backing off his original commitment to Penn State.
Depending on where you get your high school prospect rankings, both Lawrence and Fields were ranked the number one recruit in the country. ESPN named Fields the number one prospect in the country, while Rivals and 247 Sports ranked him second behind the pro-style quarterback Trevor Lawrence. With both of the two budding superstars heading to powerhouse division one programs in the South, fans were excited to see the two possibly play one another in the College Football Playoff. However, these two would meet in the Playoff, but in a different way.
In Field’s freshman year at Georgia he was the backup behind incumbent starter Jake Fromm. During the 2018 season, Fields saw action in 12 games for the Bulldogs. He finished the season totaling 328 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, 266 rushing yards, and four rushing touchdowns. After Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship, Fields announced his intent to transfer to Ohio State.
For Trevor Lawrence, his freshman year story was the total opposite. He started out 2018 as the backup behind incumbent starter Kelly Bryant. It only took four games for Clemson to realize what they had in Lawrence, and Dabo Swinney named him the starter after week four, and Bryant announced his intent to transfer. As a true freshman, Lawrence led the Tigers to an undefeated season, topping Pitt in the 2018 ACC Championship game 42-10. They entered the playoff as the second seed and took on (3) Notre Dame. They dominated the Irish in all facets of the game to easily breeze by Notre Dame 30-3. The Tigers, Lawrence, and head coach Dabo Swinney would have an opportunity to take on Alabama in the National Championship. Alabama was a slight favorite in the game, but that didn’t matter for the surging Tigers, as they swept Alabama to the side in the National Championship 44-16, giving Alabama head coach Nick Saban his worst loss during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. After the season Lawrence was named National Freshman of the Year, and won the Archie Griffin Award by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. The Archie Griffin Award is handed out to the most valuable player throughout the college football season, including bowls and post-season play. Past winners include, Ezekiel Elliott, running back from Ohio State, and Jameis Winston, quarterback for Florida State.
The summer before the 2019 football season was really when people started to realize that Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were not the two best quarterbacks in America, but the two best players overall in the country. Lawrence was gearing up for his sophomore season calling the shots for the Tigers. For Justin Fields, his summer before the 2019 season was a bit different.
Fields, who would usually have to sit out one year after transferring, sought a waiver granting him immediate eligibility for Ohio State. Fields got help from Thomas Mars, a lawyer who helped secure immediate eligibility for several players transferring from Ole Miss in 2018, including Michigan transfer, quarterback Shea Patterson. Mars and Fields argued that an incident between Fields and a Georgia baseball player, where the baseball player used a racial slur against Fields. He was granted immediate eligibility in February of 2019.
Both Lawrence and Fields had very impressive sophomore campaigns. Lawrence entered the season as a Heisman favorite but inconsistent play early on in the season saw him all but drop out of the Heisman rankings. Lawrence still led the Tigers to an undefeated season, and a college football playoff birth after defeating Virginia in the ACC Championship. The Tigers earned the three-seed in the 2019-2020 college football playoffs.
Fields, during his sophomore season, surprised some people with his great play during his first year in the Horseshoe. He completed 67% of his passes for 3,273 yards and 41 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Ohio State finished undefeated, and earned the two-seed, meaning, yes they would be taking on the undefeated Clemson Tigers in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl.
Leading up to the two semi-final games, the other being (1) LSU taking on (4) Oklahoma, the talk around the games was all centered on the two signal callers from Georgia, plus former Ohio State quarterback Joe Burrow, who was the back-up in Columbus for three years. Pundits and fans alike were clamoring about a national championship between the super sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence, or Justin Fields, and the grizzled veteran from the Bayou who took his talents to Death Valley in Louisiana.
The second game of the two semi-finals, LSU smoked Oklahoma 63-28 in the other, was going to be a back and forth affair between two of the best quarterbacks the college football world has seen in a number of years. Early on the game did not play out that way. Ohio jumped out to an early 16-0 lead and then one play changed the entire outlook of the game. Ohio State slot cornerback, Shaun Wade, who is one of the best corners in the country, was called for targeting on Trevor Lawrence, getting himself ejected. After that, the Tigers seemed to come alive, and they scored fourteen straight points to go into half-time down 16-14 to the Buckeyes.
The two teams traded traded blows during the second half, exchanging leads three times. Lawrence hit tailback Travis Etienne for a 34-yard touchdown with only two minutes remaining to give Clemson a 29-23 lead after they converted the two point conversion. Fields then led Ohio State on a great drive down to the Clemson 23 yard line. On Second and seven, Fields dropped back and looked to hit receiver Chris Olave in the end-zone, but the two were on different pages, as Olave went to block because he anticipated the Fields scramble, but Fields threw it right to Clemson defensive back Nolan Turner to ice the game.
After the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day criticized the referees for the Wade ejection and the fumble that was called incomplete in the first half. Day had a point, the officiating in the 2019 Fiesta Bowl was well below average during the 2019 Fiesta Bowl, but in the end, Clemson just beat the Buckeyes. It would be a hard, long off-season for Justin Fields, Chris Olave, Shaun Wade, and co.
In reality, everyone around the world had a tough off-season during the summer of 2020. The Pandemic hit all parts of the world in 2020, but no one expected the college football season to be affected by the virus. However, on August 11th, following a meeting of conference presidents, the Big Ten cancelled the fall football season for 2020. The sporting world was shocked as the Big Ten became the first conference to cancel the football season in 2020. The Big Ten eyed a spring football season in 2021, however, a spring season could not be played in most SEC and ACC schools because of the heat during the late spring and early summer. Along with the Big Ten, the Pac-12 also decided to cancel their fall football season.
This led to Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields both using social media and other platforms to stand against the cancellation of the 2020 fall football season.
For Justin Fields, it was a little bit different. The Big Ten cancelling the 2020 season meant that Justin Fields would not get to play for the Buckeyes again, as he is expected to enter the NFL Draft after this season. Fields also used social media to hash out his frustration over the cancellation of Big Ten football.
Finally, and luckily, the Big Ten announced its intent to start the football season on October 23rd and 24th. The possible rematch between Lawrence and Fields was alive again. Both quarterbacks entered the 2020 season as Heisman favorites, and their respective teams were predicted to reach the 2021 College Football Playoffs. However, both of their seasons were very different from the outset.
Trevor Lawrence came out of the gates quickly in the 2020 season. During Clemson’s first four games against The Citadel, Wake Forest, Virginia, and then (7) Miami, Lawrence combined to throw for 1,140 yards and ten touchdowns to no interceptions. In the next two games, Clemson cruised past Georgia Tech and Syracuse. However, unexpectedly, Lawrence contracted the COVID-19 virus the Thursday before their match-up versus Boston College. Clemson struggled a bit against Boston College, but still escaped with a 34-28 victory. After the game during his meeting with the media, head coach Dabo Swinney announced that Lawrence would also miss the game against the then ranked number four Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Lawrence’s back-up, true freshman D.J. Uiagaleli, played well against the Fighting Irish, forcing the game into overtime in South Bend. In the end, Clemson would suffer their first loss since the national championship game last year versus LSU. When Monday’s new college football ranking were released, the Irish snagged the number two spot behind Alabama, and Clemson fell to number four, just behind the (3) Ohio State Buckeyes.
The TIgers and Buckeyes would both finish the season on different notes. Clemson was flying high after crushing Notre Dame in the ACC Championship. Ohio State, on the other hand, limped into the postseason after barely beating Indiana, and getting a comeback win over Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship. When the final rankings were revealed on Sunday, December 20th, the Buckeyes and the Tigers would be meeting in the college football playoff semi-finals for the third time.
In the week leading up to the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Dabo Swinney took shots at Ohio State whenever he could. He told the press that he ranked the Buckeyes 11th in his final poll. He then doubled down by saying he didn’t know if the Buckeyes deserved to be in the Playoff. He gave Ohio State bulletin board material all week, and the Buckeyes used that as motivation.
Let’s fast forward to New Year’s Day, 2021. After Alabama demolished Notre Dame in the first semi-final, the world waited to watch the better match-up between the Tigers and Buckeyes. Ohio State and Clemson were tied after the first quarter. However, in the second quarter, Ohio State scored 21 straight unanswered points to go into half-time with a three touchdown lead.
Clemson pushed to gain momentum back in the second half, but it was to no avail. Justin Fields picked up a rib injury in the first half, but played through the pain and had one of the best games by a quarterback in Ohio State history. Fields was 22-28 throwing for 385 yards, six touchdowns, and just one interception. Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers looked shell-shocked when Ohio State was adding to its lead. Lawrence had a good game, but not a great one like Fields. He was 33-48 passing for 400 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
In the end, the college football world got what they wanted: a rematch between Ohio State and Clemson. With the Ohio State victory, it is likely that Trevor Lawrence played his last game as a Tiger on Friday night. The consensus number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will leave Clemson with only one championship and most likely no Heisman Trophies. On the other hand, the way Justin Fields played through pain, probably bumped him back into the second quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Its wild that two young men from Georgia, who lived just 20 miles apart, would become two of the best college quarterbacks in recent memory. However, don’t fret. Both of these two quarterbacks will likely meet again at some point in the NFL, but for now the score stands deadlocked at 1-1.
Follow Me on Twitter: @BrownlojCLE
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