Auburn junior defensive end Carl Lawson surprised some by foregoing the NFL draft to remain with the Tigers. The coaching staff was certainly pleased to keep the prolific pass rusher.
But just how close was he to leaving?
“We had a couple conversations, we had some conversations,” Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Garner said Tuesday, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer‘s Michael Niziolek. “I don’t think it was as clear as everyone thinks, I think he was leaning the other way.”
Lawson, who missed six games with a hip injury last season, decided to come back, but with something of an ultimatum for the coaching staff: He didn’t want to be restricted on the practice field as a precaution.
“Carl will tell you that because he feels like if he’s not working he’s not getting the rust of his game,” Garner said. “I know it’s one of the things we were talking about whether he is coming out or staying: ‘If I come back I want to be at practice, I don’t want you holding me back, I want to scrimmage. Not being able to do certain things hinders my development.’”
With a healthy Lawson back in the fold, he serves as a valuable asset and a disruptive force for new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. As the Tigers have learned with Lawson’s previous injury struggles, there is no replacing him on the field or off of it as a team leader.
“It’s hard to argue with a guy that wants to get better, that’s a joy,” Garner said. “You don’t find that anymore.”