Desmond Lawrence has issues.
His problem is he’s just so fast.
Lawrence, a 2010 Southern High School graduate now competing for N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro, ran the 100- meter dash in 10.22 at the NCAA Division I East Outdoor Track and Field Preliminary Round at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville, Florida in May. He’d never run that race that fast in his life, and it qualified him for a shot at a national title this week at the finals in Eugene, Oregon.
“He put his race together and showed the country that he should be in that conversation of who might be the fastest man in the country this season,” A&T coach Duane Ross said.
Lawrence heads into the finals ranked fifth. He has to qualify today in order to run for the title on Friday. Lawrence would deliver A&T’s first national championship and become the school’s first all-American in the 100.
That gets at why Lawrence has issues, because he also knows how to harness all of that speed of his on the football field. The guy led A&T in receiving in 2013.
“I grew up playing football,” Lawrence said. “I’ve had a passion for football longer, but I’ve been starting to enjoy track just as much as football.”
Unlike in years past, more youths these day are encouraged to specialize in a sport and pretty much become year-round athletes in that particular athletic endeavor, which speaks to the large footprint of Amateur Athletic Union basketball.
Ross, though, is OK with Lawrence multitasking.
“I think he can do both,” said Ross, a silver medalist in the hurdles in the 2004 Olympic trials. “Why pick one?”
Last season was Lawrence’s first at A&T after transferring from East Carolina University, where he both ran track and played football. His freshman football season at ECU was a redshirt year, and he said he didn’t participate in football as a sophomore.
Lawrence got a late start to the previous track season at A&T on account of doing what he needed to do to wrap up the football season. He still had a solid track season, making it to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 10.35 in the 100, the fastest time anybody in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference ran in 2013.
But there was more in his tank.
Lawrence said Ross told him that he has the potential to run the 100 in 10 seconds or less.
This season, pretty much as soon as the Aggies’ football season was done, Lawrence exchanged his cleats for spikes, and he — heading into his final outdoor running season at A&T — absolutely attacked the track workouts, Ross said.
Gone was the Desmond Lawrence who showed up for track practice without much to say, just doing what he was told and not much more, Ross said. The new edition of Desmond Lawrence clearly was in it to win it in a major way, Ross said.
“The dude just came out with a renewed attitude this season,” Ross said.
Lawrence has another season of college eligibility for both indoor track and football.
The fast track times Lawrence has been posting should be attractive to NFL scouts, Ross said. Plus, Lawrence (5-10, 181) has bench pressed 360 pounds and lifted 225 pounds off his chest a team-best 20 times, according to A&T’s athletics department.
Lawrence said he transferred to A&T looking to do more with football, but he wasn’t about to give up track. No way. He said he’s a two-sport guy.
“Before I came here, I didn’t see that as an opportunity,” Lawrence said. “I can see myself doing whichever one has the better opportunity.
“I think I definitely have the potential to do either or.”