When Spring Grove senior Andrew Lawson walked into his offseason workout Wednesday morning, he saw his former head coach Russ Stoner and had tears in his eyes.
Stoner asked the burly offensive lineman what was wrong?
“I just got a full ride to Old Dominion,” Lawson replied.
Lawson’s parents didn’t go to college, and until Old Dominion called, the majority of Lawson’s college suitors were at the Division II level, where he’d have to pay his way through.
“This is all new to my mom and dad because they didn’t go to college or anything,” Lawson said. “When I told them Old Dominion offered to pay a full ride, they freaked out. As I’ve been growing up, they’ve heard I have the body and attitude to play at the next level. Now it’s actually real. It’s crazy.”
Lawson verbally committed to Old Dominion — a Division I program in Conference USA — Friday evening after speaking with the Monarchs coaches. He is the second Rockets’ lineman in the last four years to commit to a Division I school, along with David Shaw at Maryland.
“They were happy to have me,” said Lawson, who added he plans to visit the campus next weekend. “The O-line coach was very excited. He was shocked when I said no other D-I schools were looking at me. But I’m excited for a different culture. I’ll be going from a small town in Spring Grove to a big town in Norfolk, Virginia. I’m going to have to work a lot harder.”
The Monarchs, who joined Division I in 2009, are coming off a 5-7 season. Lawson said he'd like to major in business finance and hopes to play as early as possible and help build the young program.
“Hopefully in the next few years we can gets some more wins and bowl games,” Lawson said. “We haven’t talked about playing time or anything like that but I just plan on working my tail off.”
As he mulled over a college decision in the offseason, Lawson other YAIAA all-stars spent two days a week training at Heritage Hills with Stoner and other local coaches and former players. Lawson has worked mostly on his footwork and defending the pass rush to prepare for college play.
“Anytime you have a chance to go to a school for free, that sets you up for the start of your life pretty magnificently,” Stoner said. “Since he was a freshman, he always wanted to play college football. I don’t think he realized how big of a school he could get in to. He’s got size, he’s tenacious and he’s a monster on the field.”
Stoner joked that Lawson is athletic enough to play tight end if he wanted, but even he was surprised to hear of the offer that seemingly came out of nowhere.
“One of the things that happens here in York is the PSAC schools do such a good job of recruiting and scooping these kids up early that other schools don’t think they can get the kids,” Stoner said. “I was surprised at how out of left field Old Dominion was, but it was a great thing for him. He did a lot of work when no one was watching and he earned this. And it really doesn’t matter how many offers you get, as long as you get one.”
Lawson credits Stoner along with his current head coach Kyle Sprenkle, his teammates and his family with helping keep him on the right path.
“Personally I never knew this could come true,” Lawson said of playing college football at the Division I level. “Other guys have told me if I worked hard I’d have a shot. I guess in the last year or so I realized I had a chance. Now it’s actually happening.”