Clemson Celebration Football (copy2) (copy)

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence isn't concerned about Heisman Trophy chatter. AP/Richard Shiro

CLEMSON — Pads on his shoulders and helmet on his head, Trevor Lawrence made off for the grass practice field, arms swinging up and down, all of the Clemson football team behind him. 

The Tigers started fall practice Friday, and Lawrence, the sophomore quarterback, was leading the pack. Fighting for a starting job a year ago, Lawrence is now Clemson's undisputed leader.

With the season looming, Heisman Trophy chatter has intensified, and many have Lawrence's name at the top of their list. That's all fine, Lawrence said Friday, but his attention is elsewhere.

"First things first, I want to win a national championship," Lawrence said. "Stuff like that, if it comes with it, that's awesome."

Running back Travis Etienne is also a Heisman contender. Clemson has never had a player win the accolade, though Lawrence insists he and Etienne don't talk — or even joke — about the Heisman.

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott makes it a point to steer his players away from self-promotion. He offered them a quote from Hall of Famer Walter Payton as guidance:

"Good players talk about themselves, great players have other people talk about them."

Lawrence seems to have taken that message to heart. While the rest of the college football world talks about him, Friday he was quick to heap praise on his teammates and the Clemson coaching staff.

Head coach Dabo Swinney is pleased with his quarterback's mindset.

"The biggest thing I want to see, I've already seen, and that's him asserting himself as a leader of the team," Swinney said, knocking his knuckles on the table. "Now he's got a little bit of a resume."

That's one way of putting it. Lawrence completed 65.2 percent of his passes last season for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

The opportunities for self-aggrandizement have been there, but Lawrence has stayed away. That's hardly an easy task in this era, Scott said. 

"That's refreshing in the year 2019, because all you got to do is get on Twitter and all that," he said. "Unfortunately we've taken self-promotion and called it branding, where it's OK. It kind of makes me, (it) disappoints me sometimes to see all the self-promotion out there in sports about players and coaches.

"I personally think you can be confident but humble at the same time, and I hope that's what describes a lot of our current guys."

Follow Joshua Needelman on Twitter at @joshneedelman.

Joshua Needelman covers Clemson for The Post and Courier. He's a Long Island, N.Y., native and a University of Maryland graduate.

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