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View from the O-Zone: Lawrence is really, really here

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a Jacksonville Jaguars jersey as he announces that the Jaguars had chosen Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the NFL football draft, Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

JACKSONVILLE – Breathe easy, Duval.

It's here. It's real. Really.

The Jaguars shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday used the No. 1 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft on quarterback Trevor Lawrence, making official what pretty much every analyst and every NFL observer has assumed since the team clinched that first overall selection last December.

Indeed, Jacksonville became Trevor Town Thursday.

Officially. At last.

Lawrence has been the presumptive first overall selection of this draft for more than two years and is as big a star entering the NFL as a college player has been in a long, long time.

In Jacksonville, a sold-out draft party at TIAA Bank Field celebrated. So did a city starved for a franchise quarterback – and by extension, a winner.

Three hundred seventy-seven miles from Jacksonville, in Seneca, S.C., Lawrence watched with family and friends and his wife, Marissa.

"I couldn't be more excited; I think it's a great fit," Lawrence said via videoconference shortly after the selection. "We're just so excited to get down there."

Lawrence thanked Jaguars fans for the support they already have shown.

"We're not even there yet, and we definitely feel the love and support," he said. "I'm really excited just to bring some energy to the city and do everything in my power to get us back to where we want to be. This is going to be a really fun year. Just know that once I get there, all my focus and all my attention is to making us the best we can be."

Trevor and Marissa Lawrence are scheduled to arrive in Jacksonville Friday morning. But in spirit they have been here for weeks, since Head Coach Urban Meyer strongly suggested that Lawrence was the likely selection without actually ever saying he was THE selection.

That feeling only grew when Jaguars fans made national news by buying Lawrence and Marissa a $300 state-of-the-art toaster as a gift from their wedding registry. The gesture grew, and eventually turned into more than $55,000 being donated to local charities – with the Lawrences donating $20,000.

Indeed, this one has seemed inevitable since last December, when the Jaguars clinched the No. 1 overall selection for the first time in franchise history.

Still, perhaps strangely but perhaps not for a long-suffering fan base, there were those who wondered in recent weeks. There was angst. Would the Jaguars really select Lawrence? Might they go in another direction? Despite reports that the team had decided on Lawrence, and despite every draft analyst unanimously projecting Lawrence to the Jaguars No. 1, the angst and worry remained.

What if?

Scratch the italics. Remove the question mark. Perish the thought, because the thought is no more. The Jaguars will enter their 27th season next season with a quarterback many analysts believe has a chance to be the first true elite quarterback in franchise history.

Much must happen for that to happen. He must develop and grow. But while there are no guarantees, reports are that Lawrence possesses the traits to do that developing and growing. Those traits are work ethic, football intelligence, desire and a ton of other elements outside a physical skillset that is as prototypical as any quarterback has had in years.

"He's a winner," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said via videoconference Thursday.

Will Lawrence be elite? Time will tell, but indications are that if he's not it won't be because he didn't do everything possible to achieve that status. And it won't be because of physical shortcomings.

In the percentage game that is the NFL Draft, that puts the chances of Lawrence being everything expected remarkably high. It's the most hope this franchise has had at the position in years, and it should give the franchise a future brighter than its recent past.

That is why the draft part at TIAA Bank Field Thursday sold out, and that's why the roar inside the 'Bank after Lawrence's selection was what it was. That sound was hope. And this franchise – and this town – sure deserve that.

"It was almost kind of like a weight lifted off my shoulders," Lawrence said shortly after the selection. "There obviously has been a lot of expectations coming into this draft. Nothing's official. To experience this moment that we've all been waiting for a long time with my family and friends was really special."

That feeling? The weight off the shoulders?

Jaguars fans felt it, too. So, yeah. Cheer, Duval. Enjoy it. Savor it. Anticipate the future. Eagerly. Excitedly. Deservedly. And breathe easy. He's here. Here's real.

At last.

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