AUBURN | Carl Lawson earned Defensive Newcomer of the Year at Auburn's recent football awards banquet.
The former five-star recruit tallied 20 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in his true freshman campaign. Lawson's breakout game came against Ole Miss when he dominated fellow true freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to the tune of six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
The performance earned Lawson SEC Freshman of the Week.
In addition, Lawson was named Freshman All-American by Sporting News. Inexplicably, Lawson was left off the All-Freshman team by the SEC's coaches.
Lawson publicly thanked defensive line coach Rodney Garner on Twitter after winning the award.
"Special thanks to @coachg76 (Rodney Garner) for helping me to get Auburn's Defensive Newcomer of the Year," Lawson stated.
It's an ironic twist of fate considering how the duo began their relationship.
Garner was coaching at Georgia in the spring of 2012 when Lawson was rising up the recruiting rankings, but Georgia never pushed for Lawson. The Bulldogs ran a 3-4 defense and Lawson wasn't a priority. Garner recruited the defensive line and Lawson was projected as a linebacker in the Georgia system.
They rarely crossed paths.
Lawson committed to Auburn in the spring of 2012, but just weeks before signing day, everything changed. Garner jumped on board with new head coach Gus Malzahn at Auburn and his first order of business was building the relationship with Lawson the pair never had.
It was an extremely important aspect of Lawson sticking with the Tigers.
"I loved Auburn the school and I know they would hire great coaches. I wouldn't go to a school or go commit to a coach if I knew they weren't a good coach. Coach Garner and I maybe didn't start off great a year ago, but that's a year ago. I trusted Auburn. There wasn't anything that surprised me the more we visited after he arrived at Auburn. His resume speaks for itself," Lawson told AuburnSports.com in February.
"Any college player-coach relationship. He's going to be my mentor and teacher and I'm going to have to respect and obey what he's telling me on the football field. That's how it is. I believe in his ability to get me to the NFL."
Being ranked the nation's No. 4 overall prospect coming out of high school - and a five-star - places an immense amount of pressure on a high school student-athlete. Many aren't equipped to handle the notoriety, but Lawson was different.
The focused and determined speed-rushing defensive end knew until he performed on the SEC gridiron, his ranking was meaningless. He possessed that mindset from before his meteoric rise in the rankings until the day he signed.
"Every year there's a new five-star defensive end and every year guys don't pan out. The higher you are ranked, the more their ego goes up. The more that happens, when the player is brought back down to earth, they don't know how to respond," Lawson said.
"It just brings too much publicity. Rankings hype your head up a lot. In college, all these guys were four and five-star guys, they feel entitled when they get to college. They feel special."
By comparison, consensus Freshman All-American and the nation's No. 1 overall player in last year's recruiting class, Robert Nkemdiche tallied 29 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks this season. Lawson also recorded seven quarterback hurries to Nkemdiche's three.