Jordan Palmer has made a career out of identifying, molding, and teaching first-round quarterback talent. The former NFL (and Jacksonville Jaguars) quarterback now serves as a consultant with the Quarterback Summit in California.
And he not only sees the future face of the NFL in Trevor Lawrence, but someone ready for that challenge right away.
“He's about as mature as I've seen at this age.”
Palmer spent time on the Pat McAfee show this week, expounding the virtue of Lawrence, the presumed No. 1 overall pick for the Jaguars in the upcoming NFL Draft (beginning on April 29). Nothing is “ever locked in,” Palmer cautioned, but when it comes to Lawrence—who he trained in preparation for the draft—and the Jaguars, “that's my assumption for sure.”
Just because someone is mocked to a team though doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to change said team. That’s what sets Lawrence apart, according to Palmer. He’s been training to be a franchise quarterback for years and has succeeded expectations at every turn.
“He's just kind of like a ballplayer and, you know, doesn't really care too much about all this other stuff,” noted Palmer. “His maturity is what I think sticks out the most, and it's how normal, he stayed through this whole crazy three, four or five-year stretch to normal he stayed. His circle’s the same. He's super kind to everybody; he's like as kind as you can be for still being a dog on the field.”
“I think one of the biggest things about Trevor as I look to see him transition to the NFL is, you know, a lot of these guys were big time recruits, and that's fine, but he was the face of recruiting for like a year or two, which means like when you're in high school, every single thing you do—kids have camera phones out of seven-on-seven tournaments, just waiting for you to throw a pick. And then he's the face of college football for three years.
“I actually think, being the franchise quarterback in Jacksonville will feel smaller than being the face of college football for three years. So I actually think it'll be less of a deal. And he's handled the magnitude of being the face of college football really well. I'm excited to see how he handles this.”
Lawrence has been deemed a perfect prospect since attending Cartersville High School in Cartersville, Georgia. He won the National Championship as a freshman, defeating Alabama and Nick Saban to burst onto the college football stage. Over the course of his three years as a Clemson Tiger, the Heisman finalist has always been in the top tier (never lower than 12th) in the nation’s leading quarterback ratings. He lost only two starts his entire college career, both in the College Football Playoff.
What turns a quarterback into the face of a franchise though is about just as much what he does off the field as on. That’s where Palmer sees a special side of Trevor Lawrence and his potential with the Jaguars and the NFL.
When college football seemingly shut down due to the global pandemic COVID-19, it was Lawrence who led the charge—and partnered with Ohio State’s Justin Fields to do so—in the #WeWantToPlay movement. They asked to play, but also asked for certain protocols and even hinted at a college football player union.
"The NFL was watching the NCAA, to establish protocols and see how things were gonna go so he's actually a big reason we had football this year. And if you had to pick one player who didn't need to play this year in his draft stock wouldn't be affected, that’d be your guy you pick.”
Lawrence, recognizing his platform, also led the charge for social justice at Clemson after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis price last summer. The death—currently being tried as second-and third-degree murder and manslaughter in court—led to a wave of protests across the country.
"When George Floyd died he really utilized his platform to speak to the social and racial injustice,” notes Palmer.
“So here's a guy that could have just said 'you know what I'm just gonna like—if we play, I'll play if we don't, I'll collect my check in a year. Sit back, see what happens; work on my short game.' This dude wanted to play ball, and he wanted to use this platform for good.”
As evident all too often in the NFL though, teams and prospects aren’t always just plug-and-play. That's what makes Lawrence and the Jaguars such an intriguing marriage, according to Palmer; the attitude shift under new head coach Urban Meyer has created a situation ideal for Lawrence. And for Palmer, who’s spent his life around the NFL, it can change the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“I actually think Jacksonville is one of the best landing spots I've seen in a while, in terms of what they're doing, the way that Urban [Meyer] is going to be cutting edge and think about building players and the way he's going to use data analytics and sports science…[Passing game coordinator] Brian Schottenheimer, Darrell Bevell's the [offensive] coordinator, they just have brought in some just really, really cool people. And this owner will spend, and you know Shad and Tony Khan, and they're very cutting edge and forward-thinking.
“And to have a quarterback where you kind of know exactly what you're going to get day one is such an advantage when you're trying to build an organization…I think they're, I think they're gonna build something really, really special there.”