JACKSONVILLE – This was a day for smiles.
It's perhaps not fair to say Trevor Lawrence's smile was the day's biggest, but it was real and wide as the Jaguars' new quarterback appeared before local media for the first time.
"The plan is to keep being me, and it's going to be a lot of fun," he said.
This was Friday at TIAA Bank Field. The scene was the introductory press conference for Lawrence – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft – and his Clemson University teammate, running back Travis Etienne, who the Jaguars selected No. 25 overall Thursday.
Friday draft days are always about smiles. It's the day first-round selections speak to media for the first time with their new franchises. First-round selections represent hope and promise. Few days in Jaguars history have more represented those things than Friday.
So, yes …
Head Coach Urban Meyer smiled beside Lawrence on the podium Friday, and General Manager Trent Baalke smiled beside Meyer. Smiling, too, was Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who sat beside Lawrence and drew perhaps the day's biggest laugh.
Friday felt like the dawn of a new era. But Khan has sat at podiums multiple times previously in a decade as Jaguars owner and discussed new eras. What, he was asked, is different this time?
Khan leaned to the microphone.
"This time," he said, "I got it right."
Khan's reasons for feeling that way are legitimate. Meyer, hired in January, won three national titles (two at Florida and one at Ohio State) in a 17-year career as one of the most successful coaches in college football history. Lawrence lost just two college games, none in the regular season, in three seasons at Clemson – and never lost a regular-season high school or college games.
The duo that now defines the Jaguars is about winning, and championships, and you couldn't be in the team meeting room at the 'Bank Friday and not feel energy, excitement, possibility, hope.
You felt, too, the seriousness Meyer feels about winning when he was asked early in the press conference about patience with young players.
"There is an incredible amount of urgency," Meyer said. "I told our players, 'With all due respect to four-, five-, or six-year plans, that's not the plan at all.' The plan is to try to do the very best we can to win. Every time you like up you try to win."
And make no mistake:
The two players Meyer and Baalke selected first in their first draft symbolize that approach, having combined to help Clemson to College Football Playoff appearances the last three seasons, national-title games following the 2018 and 2019 season and the national title following the 2018 season.
And make no mistake about this, either:
This is where those two players want to be. Lawrence made that clear Thursday after being drafted, and he reiterated the point Friday. Asked why this was the right fit, Lawrence cited Khan, Baalke and Meyer. He also cited the team's coaches, and the fact that it's comparatively close to his hometown of Cartersville, Ga.
"That's just a bonus," he said. "Obviously, you don't know a place until you get there. It's been special since I've been here today. I'm excited to learn more about it and to be a part of the community."
Lawrence added, "I'm not really accustomed to a big city. I grew up in a small town. Clemson's a small town. Jacksonville is technically a big city land-wise, but it's nice coming here. It's kind of familiar in a way sizewise and kind of what I'm used to. So, it's cool."
Lawrence said of his first day in Jacksonville, touring TIAA Bank Field and meeting coaches and staff, "It's been great. Everyone here is great. I'm excited to go to work. We're going to make it home, but yeah … it feels like home and that's the plan. We're going to get settled in quick."
Etienne voiced his reasons for wanting to come to the Jaguars more succinctly.
"I knew Trevor was coming here," he said, laughing.
Late during his time on the podium, Lawrence explained another reason for his smile.
"I'm excited that I'm here and officially a part of the team," he said. "It's kind of a weird period. You're on a team your whole life, then you have this period before the draft where you're working to get better but you're not part of a team. I miss that. So, I'm just excited for that."
As of Friday, that's no more. He's part of a team now, this team – and he's the quarterback Meyer, Baalke and Khan wanted. And the one for which fans have waited for a long, long time.
So, yes … Friday was absolutely a day for smiles.