Lawrence to play tight end for Hardin-Simmons
By Keith Sparks
On National Signing Day, Liberty Hill lineman Lakota Lawrence was one of a handful of Panther athletes to commit to playing at the next level as he signed to play football at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene.
Lawrence didn’t hesitate to list off the reasons he chose Hardin-Simmons, not the least of which is the commitment the coaching staff has shown to the university, giving him confidence that he won’t have to go through a coaching change during his collegiate career.
“The school is beautiful, it’s a private school education, the football team has had a lot of success in recent years, and the head coach is amazing,” Lawrence said. “He’s dedicated to the program, and the staff has remained for many years, so I felt secure that I’m not going to get a new staff or be in transition for any of these next four years.”
Hardin-Simmons was the only school on Lawrence’s list, who said he never even considered going anywhere else. He chalked the decision up to a gut feeling.
“It was just an odd feeling, you know,” Lawrence said. “It was like it was just meant to be, kind of too good to be true. It’s a Christian school, there’s never been a dilemma or anything going on, like a violation or anything. It’s a clean program.”
The recruitment process began last summer, Lawrence said, and his decision was officially made following the Panthers’ loss in the State Championship game in December.
“It started in the summer before my senior year,” Lawrence said. “After the State game, I said ‘I’m in, coach, I’m in.’”
Lawrence was able to take a recruiting visit before making the decision official, during which he was part of a group of about a dozen other recruits, the vast majority of which signed, as well.
“I got to see their athletic complex, their stadium, I got to meet all the coaching staff,” Lawrence said. “My recruiting visit, in general, was big. There were a lot of other recruits there, and everyone there except two of the kids signed. There were 10 or 12 of us.”
One of the biggest adjustments Lawrence will have to make is learning to catch passes, as he’ll be making the transition to the tight end position after playing guard during his time at Liberty Hill.
“I need to work on my route running and my pass catching a little, since I’m going to be transitioning to tight end after playing guard in the Slot-T,” Lawrence said. “Other than that, he said everything’s good. My speed’s good, I’ve got good stature, and I’ve got a frame I can build on.”
Although the HSU coaching staff had zero film of Lawrence catching passes, their offense lends itself toward tight ends that specialize in blocking, so they were confident that Lawrence could make an impact in that regard.
“In their offense, they have a tight end and H back, so whether you’re on-line or in the backfield, you’re blocking for a very good portion of the time,” Lawrence said. “He knows I can block, and I know how to block. I know proper technique and I’m easily coachable.”
It may be an uphill battle to see time on the field as a freshman, but Lawrence said that all lies on his shoulders, dependent upon what he’s able to do during the preseason.
“That’s all dependent on me,” Lawrence said. “It’s all open in the fall camp. I’ve just got to make the most of my reps. If I do that, I’ll play.”
Between now and then, Lawrence said he’ll simply work on improving the strengths he already has, which are his strength and speed.
“My biggest strength for me is my speed and change of direction,” Lawrence said. “I’m just going to work on my strengths more. I’m powerful, so I just need to make my strengths better.”
The HSU football program has had a lot of success as of late, going to the national playoffs the last two years. Upon his arrival, Lawrence plans on majoring in exercise science and minoring in education.