Last fall, Charlotte Christian defensive back Desmond Lawrence visited North Carolina for the Tar Heels’ home football game against Duke. He liked the campus, the coaches and the atmosphere, but one of his high school coaches told him he should go home and think on it before making decisions about his college future.
When Lawrence returned home, the feeling disappeared, he said. Lawrence visited Clemson and N.C. State, and Duke was a front-runner because he considered the team an improving program.
But Lawrence returned to Chapel Hill twice more, once with his aunt and once with his mother.
“After the one with my mom I was like, ‘I’m not waiting anymore,’ ” he said.
In April, Lawrence committed to play for North Carolina.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that early,” Lawrence, 17, said about the commitment. “I thought I was going to make it a couple of weeks before our first game or scrimmage, somewhere in August. ... There was just something about (North Carolina). I can get the education and still play football.”
Lawrence, a 6-foot, 176-pound senior, said he likes the enthusiasm of new North Carolina coach Larry Fedora and his coaching staff.
“He’s really passionate about what he’s doing and what he’s trying to build,” Lawrence said of Fedora.
With his college choice behind him, Lawrence said he’s ready to focus on his final season at Charlotte Christian.
The Knights failed to make the playoffs last year after losing end-of-the-season games to Ravenscroft and Charlotte Providence Day .
“I just feel like we have a chip on our shoulder from last year and we have to come out and play hard every game and I think we can do it,” said Lawrence. “We’re just trying to come out here and be more competitive and show everybody that we’re a contender for a state championship.”
Lawrence’s play will be key for Charlotte Christian on both sides of the ball again this year. He will alternate between cornerback and safety on defense.
“He’ll hit,” Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep said. “He’s big, he’s fast and he’s got every trait that you would want for his position. He has the ability to shut a game down. When he’s on, he’s on and he’s as good as they come.”
Lawrence will also play running back and some slot wide receiver on offense. Last year he started playing running back midway through the season after Bo Hines went down with a collarbone injury. Lawrence finished the season as the team’s leading rusher.
“It’s tiring but it’s fun,” Lawrence said about playing on both sides of the ball. “You know certain things that the other players don’t know because you’re on both sides of the ball.”
After a disappointing end to last season, Lawrence is ready to work.
“Most of all I’m going to try and win a state championship, get that feeling as a high school player,” he said.
This story originally appeared in the South Charlotte News.
Inscoe: 704-358-5923 Twitter: @CoreyInscoe