Lawrence’s stature as the frontrunner in the Heisman Trophy race, as well as the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, makes him college football’s biggest name to test positive.
But he is one of 173 athletes and staff members at Clemson who have been infected with the virus since the school began testing routinely in June.
A day before Lawrence made his announcement, he told reporters in a Zoom press conference how confident he was in the protocols Clemson put in place, but he was also realistic about the chances that he or any of his teammates could be infected.
“You can’t control it, obviously,” he said. “There’s some situations where guys get it, you just don’t know how to get it. But I’m just trying to be as safe as possible. But yeah, we’ve thought about it and we’re preparing for any situation.
“We know that at some point in the year it’s more likely than not that that’s going to happen to somebody on our team just with the way the virus is and how fast it spreads. You just never know so we’re preparing every week, that’s why everybody’s got to be ready to play.”
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, at least 167,057 people have tested positive in the state, and 3,653 have died. Over the past two weeks, the state has seen a spike in cases in Greenville, about 45 minutes away from Clemson. The Clemson campus is second in confirmed cases among all universities in the country, according to the New York Times.
While Massachusetts is up to 153,229 total cases and 9,750 deaths, the Boston College football program has remained mostly untouched by COVID-19 issues. As of last week, the program had administered more than 5,500 tests dating back to June, when players returned for voluntary workouts, with just one player testing positive the first week.
The BC athletic department was not available for comment following the news of Lawrence’s positive test. However, before the Eagles opened their season on the road against Duke, athletic director Pat Kraft said that each week of tests with no positive results felt like the Eagles had won the biggest game of the season.
Maintaining those negative test results has taken diligence. On the road, BC put plans in place — from meals and seating on the plane to hotel rooms — to keep players safe. Three straight home games allowed the Eagles to essentially remain in their own bubble for nearly a month. When the Eagles traveled to Virginia Tech earlier this month, it was their first time playing in a stadium that hosted fans. Virginia Tech allowed a crowd of 1,000 family and friends into Lane Stadium.
The environment at Memorial Stadium, however, will be different. The Tigers have been allowing just under 19,000 fans to attend games this season. The stadium’s full capacity is 81,500. As a university, Clemson is up to 4,565 positive cases since it started testing in June.
After this weekend in Death Valley, the Eagles have two road games left. They visit Syracuse — which has not hosted fans this season — next week. They end the season at Virginia. The Cavaliers, like Virginia Tech, have allowed 1,000 family members at games.
When conferences around the country weighed whether college football could feasibly return this year, teams moved forward with the understanding that players would inevitably test positive. Lawrence is required by Atlantic Coast Conference protocols to quarantine for 10 days. So the Tigers will likely turn to freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, a five-star recruit out of St. John Bosco High School in California, as the season rolls along and teams continue to be tested in more ways than one.
Julian Benbow can be reached at [email protected]