Reggie Lucas took the podium inside the Wake Forest High School auditorium and began with a story about his star football player Dexter Lawrence.
Lucas said at the beginning of his high school career, the 6-foot-5, 335-pound defensive tackle wasn’t really interested in playing. The Cougars coach said he called Lawrence’s mother to persuade the then-freshman.
“She dragged Dexter up to the fieldhouse, and Dexter was just pouting like a little baby,” Lucas told a buzzing crowd of Lawrence’s family, teammates and classmates during his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey presentation. Lawrence, one of the nation’s top recruits of 2016 who will make his college decision on Dec. 14, was one of 90 players selected across the country. The game is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2016, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
The five-star Cougar is the state’s top-ranked recruit.
Standing out is Alabama, Florida, Clemson, (N.C.) State, UNC and Ohio State
Five-star recruit Dexter Lawrence
Four years ago, Lawrence didn’t know what he was missing until he played in his first varsity football game; he said he wasn’t quite challenged on the junior varsity level. On Tuesday, the culmination of his efforts on the football field over the years came to light when he pulled his All-American jersey over his head and smiled before a packed auditorium.
“Long-story short,” Lucas continued, “after he played his first game against Durham Jordan, he fell in love with the game of football.”
Lawrence has 22 college offers from some of the top programs around the nation. He set his timeline for Dec. 14, which is the Monday following the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA football state championship game.
The Cougars, who had back-to-back finals appearances starting last season and have played in three title games since 2010, are hoping to get over the hump and win the program’s first state championship this time around. They lost the last two years to Charlotte Mallard Creek, the No. 6-ranked team out of the West.
The third-seeded Cougars are undefeated headed into Friday’s first-round playoff game against Wilmington Laney.
Entering the postseason, Lawrence leads the Cougars with 60 tackles and 12 tackles for loss. He averages a sack a game and has nine on the year.
Lawrence’s most recent college visit was to top-ranked Clemson. He was impressed by the fan base and attitudes of the players and coaches.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, the “gentle giant” was showered with terms of endearment from school leaders.
“It just feels great that they all supported me through this process the whole time,” said Lawrence, who wore a black polo shirt with khakis to the presentation. “I just learned that they have my back and I have theirs.”