Clemson offensive coordinator/assistant head coach Tony Elliott has fielded questions on Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne for years now.
He has time and time again explained why each found the success they did at Clemson, the success that led each to become first-round picks by the Jacksonville Jaguars in April's NFL Draft.
But when asked this time what type of players Jacksonville will get in Lawrence and Etienne, all he can do is laugh. What else is there to say?
"Oh, man. I mean, look at what they've done here," Elliott told Jaguar Report this week,
For the last three seasons, Lawrence (the No. 1 overall pick) and Etienne (the No. 25 overall pick) were the faces of the Clemson Tigers' program, one of the best in the entire nation. Clemson went 34-2 in games Lawrence started over the last three years, while the program went 51-5, appeared in two National Championships, and won four ACC championships during Etienne's four years on campus.
Now, the pair are set to be the faces of Jacksonville's rebuild under new head coach Urban Meyer. And few people know exactly how prepared Lawrence and Etienne are to take on that responsibility as well as Elliott does.
"Trevor was, you know, in my opinion, the best quarterback in the country. And he was under the biggest microscope and he performed at the highest level," Elliott said. "And he is everything that we say he is, and I can't wait for him to be able to display that so that Jacksonville and everybody else in the NFL realizes who he is and how special of a person he is and how special of talent that he is."
"And then Travis, I think that, you know, he's just scratching the surface of what he can be. I think that his best football is still ahead of him. And they're getting a guy that he could be -- in my opinion, he could be as good as there's ever been. He has that kind of skillset with a combination of his explosion, his vision, his timing, his patience, and then his ability to run physical."
It is high praise for the Jaguars' latest first-round picks, the first two picks of the Meyer era in Jacksonville. But it is not praise that goes unwarranted considering what Elliott saw each do while donning Clemson's colors.
In his three years, Lawrence won a title as a true freshman, never lost a regular-season game, and set Clemson career records in career winning percentage (.944), pass efficiency rating (164.3), yards per passing attempt (8.87), while tying for second in passing touchdowns with 90.
Lawrence is entering the NFL with even more hype than he entered college. He has been proclaimed by many as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012, a level of hype few other quarterbacks can say they have had to thrive under.
But knowing Lawrence, Elliott doesn't see the pressure becoming an issue. It simply never has been before.
"You know, you saw Trevor come in understanding the, I guess the hype associated with him," Elliott said. "But he came in humbly, which gave him the ability to transition to win over the trust of his teammates and the coaching staff, which is going to be important there.
"And then he also understands the trials and tribulations that go on with being a quarterback and how to handle it. When you need to press, when you don't need to press, When you need to make a play, and then when you need to not necessarily force a play so that you can, you know, stay on track and help you and help the team overall."
While Lawrence will be Jacksonville's franchise quarterback and the most important piece to the puzzle moving forward, Etienne won't be far behind when it comes to impact offensive players. Etienne will share a backfield with Lawrence just as he did at Clemson, with the dual-threat running back's speed and versatility winning the Jaguars over at No. 25 overall.
Etienne left Clemson as the most productive running back in ACC history, becoming the conference's career record-holder for rushing yards (4,952), total touchdowns (78), rushing touchdowns (70) and points (468). Now, he will be asked to add an element of speed the Jaguars' offense lacked -- an element that Elliott says has still not yet been completely unlocked, which is a scary thought considering his countless highlights at Clemson.
"I think Travis has a ton of room before he reaches the ceiling. I mean, every snap that he continues to play, he's just going to get better," Elliott said.
"And to see where he came in as a freshman just a guy from Jennings, Louisiana, small town, run fast [and] go score, to developing into a back that has patience, has vision, understands the game, developed as a receiver to understand how to identify structure and anticipate pressures."
In Jacksonville, Lawrence and Etienne will be getting in on the groundwork of a rebuild. They saw the fruit of their labors at Clemson, giving them a first-hand perspective on what it takes to win at a high level and how to do so consistently.
Doing this at the NFL level is a whole different animal altogether, though. The Jaguars are betting on Lawrence, Etienne, and Meyer to take their pedigrees of winning from college to the NFL level. Each of the three has track records that are far cries from the eight seasons of double-digit losses the Jaguars have suffered through in the last nine years.
But each has the makeup on and off the field to bring a winning mindset to Jacksonville, Elliott said, which is the kind of foundation the Jaguars are willing to build around."
"You know, I think Trevor, you got to go all the way back to his high school career. I mean, the man's known nothing but winning," Elliott said. "He won as a high school guy at the highest level in one of the toughest classifications in the state of Georgia. And he carried that forward here at Clemson with the success that he had here. And he understands what it takes to win. You know, I think there's a difference between winning and understanding what it takes to win. Because you can play on a good team here and there, but to be consistently a winner, you know what it takes.
"And then Travis was able to learn that while he was here at Clemson, what it takes to be a winner. And it's all about the little things, it's about a daily focus. It's about you know, understanding that you're not bigger than the team, even the superstars have to put in the work every single day to earn their opportunity to run out there and play to give their team a chance to win," Elliott continued.
"So these guys are coming from a culture that understands what it takes to win and then how you maintain the consistency and winning by just resetting every single year, every single day with what you're doing."
While what Lawrence and Etienne do on the field over the next several years will be crucial when it comes to determining the kind of team the Jaguars are going to be, it is what they will do off the field that could be just as important.
In Lawrence and Etienne, the Jaguars are looking for more than touchdowns and wins. They are looking for leadership and culture fits -- players who can seamlessly step into the organization and improve both themselves and those around them.
But as long as each goes about preparing on and off the field just as they did at Clemson, a place where Elliott said the duo were "sponges" who wanted to absorb information, adapt to their surroundings, and improve.
"He never makes it about himself," Elliott said about Etienne. "He's not he's not as much of a vocal leader and out in front, like, like a Trevor. But he's just an unassumed superstar that's all about the group. He appreciates, you know, how his teammates can make him better and push him."
When it comes to the voice and face of the Jaguars' locker room, the spotlight will obviously be on Lawrence once he pays his dues. That is the simple fact when it comes to the quarterback position.
But this isn't something Lawrence is new to or ill-equipped for. He has been preparing himself at a meticulous level to make himself a top-level quarterback prospect, but he has also taken the necessary steps to prove he can connect to those in the huddle around him.
"Trevor is just -- I mean, he's a natural, natural leader. His presence fills a room not just physically but just his spirit. He's got such a calm demeanor about himself, very welcoming, inviting, he can communicate with anybody, he has a humility, you know, that is contagious," Elliott said.
"He never makes anything about himself. And that's what makes him a great leader. And he's genuinely you know, trying to have a relationship with the other guys in the locker room, where sometimes you get high-profile guys and they kind of have their own vision, their own plan, they stick to that. And they welcome anybody to come along with them, but sometimes they don't slow down to walk with the other people on the journey. And that's what I appreciated about Trevor. He's going to be fully, you know, fully present in the moment, you know, trying to help everybody elevate their level of play just by how he carries himself and how he works."
Lawrence and Etienne reuniting in Jacksonville was predicted by few leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence was considered a lock to be drafted No. 1 overall, but Etienne was much less of a guarantee to represent Duval in the backfield.
The odds were against it, as well. The pair is the first backfield duo from a single school to ever be first-round picks together in the same draft. But the Jaguars saw the magic the two created at Clemson -- both together and individually -- and envisioned them recreating the fireworks in Jacksonville.
"I think when you get out there and the bullets start flying, there's going to be a sense of normalcy to them, some that's going to calm each of them down just to give them the ability to adapt," Elliott said. "And you're talking about a franchise where you got a new head coach coming in who is trying to establish a culture. They know where they came from, they know that what it took to be successful here, they know what it takes to be successful to the highest degree.
"And you're gonna have two guys that have that chemistry that are going to be able to display that you know, early on. But they're gonna have to earn their stripes. They are going to be young guys with a lot of expectations, but they'll be able to carry that in such a way that will bring calmness to each other, which will hopefully resonate with everybody else, which will help drive the culture that Urban is trying to establish there."
Now, the rest is up to Lawrence and Etienne. Their former days at Clemson were historic, glorious, and unprecedented, but that is what they are now -- former days.
Now, the pair will look to create new memories, set new records, and rack up even more wins. Expect Elliott to be watching every step of the way.
"So I'm excited to see, you know, those guys transition to that level and show what they showed here because everybody that's in this building, around this program knows how special they are," Elliott said. "And now I think it's time for the world to see that.