Trevor Lawrence had a hell of a summer.
He became the face of college football, if he wasn’t already. The Clemson quarterback spoke out about racial injustice, even releasing his own plan for change. He led the #WeWantToPlay movement, as hundreds of college football players expressed their desires to play this fall. He and his fiancée also started a GoFundMe page to help with COVID-19 relief efforts.
And on the football field, he was good too. He has led the No. 1-ranked Tigers to a 6-0 record, passed for 1,833 yards, thrown 17 touchdowns and completed 70% of his attempts. In fact, Lawrence had positioned himself as the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Things were going quite well.
And then he tested positive for COVID-19 nine days from Clemson’s showdown with No. 4 Notre Dame.
The news, broken Thursday night by NFL Network, reverberated through the college football world. Later on, Clemson confirmed the news that Lawrence would enter the mandatory 10 days of isolation and miss this weekend’s game against Boston College. However, the school’s release was missing a significant detail: his status for the game against the Irish on Nov. 7.
That’s because it’s complicated, so complex in fact that even high-ranking Clemson staff members contacted Thursday weren’t completely sure themselves.
What is known: Lawrence’s collection of the testing sample came during weekly testing Wednesday. He was the only positive result among players, sources told SI. The school is confident that contact tracing will not turn up new positives, referring to this as an “isolated positive.” High-risk contacts are mostly found in roommates. Lawrence lives alone (he does, however, have a fiancée, as previously mentioned).
Meanwhile, Clemson may be just fine this weekend. Lawrence’s replacement is the No. 1-ranked quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class. While he’s big and gifted, D.J. Uiagalelei is still a true freshman.
But let’s get back to that big, unanswered question: Will Lawrence be eligible to play against Notre Dame?
The answer is, indeed, complicated and it does include several hypotheticals, but Lawrence could very well be cleared and out of isolation in time to play the Irish, sources at Clemson told SI on Thursday night.
The 10-day isolation clock doesn’t actually start from the time of isolation. It begins in two ways, according to CDC guidelines: 1) on the date in which the positive test sample was collected (in Lawrence’s case, Wednesday morning, which could mean a Saturday morning return) or 2) the date in which symptoms began (which is estimated to be on or around Wednesday, or potentially before).
Lawrence passed a COVID-19 test on Sunday. So at some point between then and Wednesday morning’s test, he contracted the virus.
And so, here we are, wondering if college football’s best player will play in one of college football’s biggest games.
Welcome to 2020, where we’ve now had the sport’s best player and best coach (Nick Saban) test positive for the coronavirus. Saban’s test was ruled a false positive after he tested negative three times over three ensuing days.
Clemson retested Lawrence a second time to ensure the result. It was positive.
And now comes the waiting and guessing game. Would Lawrence play in Clemson’s biggest game after having practiced very little or not at all? Will his symptoms subside enough to allow him to exit isolation in time? And when did his symptoms actually start?
Conceivably, he could have contracted the virus as early as Sunday. If that’s the case, he could have experienced symptoms as soon as two days later, Tuesday.
“He may have had symptoms Monday or Tuesday,” says a source at the school. “We’ll have to wade through that.”
And it’s not like it’s any old game, right?
“It’s Notre Dame,” the source said. “It’s not like we have a bye week. It’s the game.”