Auburn defensive lineman Carl Lawson has spent much of his career as a silent leader letting his work ethic help set a high standard in the locker room.
For what could be his final go-around on the Plains early as a projected first round draft pick, Lawson is taking a different approach heading into his junior year.
“I don’t want to let things slide by,” Lawson said.
Lawson spent a half hour in the Wynfrey Hotel’s main ballroom answering questions from reporters as one of Auburn’s three SEC Media Days team representatives.
The no-nonsense Georgia native, known for giving direct answers in press conference settings, kept many of his answers to 10 words or less. Lawson reserved his most thoughtful responses for questions dealing with how Auburn has turned the page on last year’s 7-6 finish.
“Complacency, we let that creep into the program and that’s not what we are trying to let happen this year,” Lawson said. “We are going to be held to a standard no matter what happens that season, we are going to be held to that standard the entire season.”
Coach Gus Malzahn told his players to use their influence in a positive way going into the offseason. Lawson is taking the advice personally and stepping up his leadership role in a significant way.
“The little things add up, so that’s what I’ve been preaching,” Lawson said.
If Lawson sees a player missing a class or coming late to a workout he’s going to speak up, which is something he might not have done in previous years.
“Good programs don’t have that,” Lawson said. “We are trying to get that out this offseason so we can have a successful team.”
Lawson shouldn’t run into much resistance expanding his influence in the locker room considering his status as one of the most respected impact players in the conference.
“He’s a game-changer,” Malzahn reiterated during his Monday afternoon press conference.
While injuries have derailed much of Lawson’s college career, he made it through the spring without any setbacks and is eager to show he can make it through a full regular season.
“He's at his best,” Malzahn said. “He's at his fastest and quickest and strongest he's ever been. He's very competent. He's a wonderful young man. And I really expect him to stay healthy.”
Lawson, who made the Bronko Nagurski preseason watch list last week, spent a year rehabbing a torn ACL as a sophomore only to see his return to the lineup cut short in the 2015 season-opener against Louisville with a significant hip injury. Lawson estimated he was playing at 60 percent when he returned to the lineup at the end of October finishing the season with 17 tackles, three for a loss and a sack in seven games.
The numbers were a far cry from the production he hoped to put up following a breakout freshman campaign two years earlier, but Lawson isn’t one to look back on the past.
Lawson is at peace with the opportunities he’s missed content to focus on the ones in front of him.
“In life you have adversity, and every time I’ve had adversity in my life I’ve come back stronger,” Lawson said. “I didn’t like what happened, but I appreciated what happened because it made me a better player. Made me view things from a different perspective. Every experience, a bad experience or a good experience, is a learning experience.”