GILROY – Will Lawrence is a self-made man.
As his sophomore season at Gavilan College was coming to a close, the stocky tight end did not want it to be the last time he played organized football.
So, with no college recruits kicking down his door, Lawrence took it upon himself to promote his athletic ability to any college programs that would give him a look. The 2002 Gilroy High graduate began his search on the Internet, picking out schools with football programs and sending them his clips.
“I was looking on-line at schools, sending out information. Some replied, some didn’t,” Lawrence said. “I kept with it.”
It took some time – and doubt did begin to run through his mind – but Lawrence finally got a nibble. Dakota State head football coach Gene Wockenfuss responded, showing interest in bringing in a tight end since the Trojans went without one the previous season.
“Initially with the distance factor and just the location of California and South Dakota, there was a little reluctance to whether this young man can fit into our environment and grow here,” Wockenfuss said. “The more we built a relationship on the phone I was really, really sold on Will Lawrence and what he could contribute to our program.”
At Gavilan College, Lawrence was an All-Coast Conference honorable mention his freshman year, but was under-used in his sophomore season. But at Gilroy High School, he was a first-team All-League selection, a two-time Central Coast Section honorable mention, a two-time team MVP, and the 2002 GHS Athlete of the Year.
Lawrence sent some film to the Dakota State coach, who then told him he could come play for him, and two weeks before the start of this spring semester, he was off to Brookings, South Dakota.
“At first, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go,” said Lawrence, who decided to pack his bags and make it in time for spring work-outs. “I just wanted to go somewhere just to play. I wanted to get an education and play football.”
He now has that chance and, although he was undecided on what to study at Gavilan College, Lawrence quickly found his calling in the classroom, majoring in computer graphics.
“The first day I got there it was snowing, it was cold, it was windy. I was like, ‘Oh, man. I don’t know. What did I get myself into,’ ” Lawrence said. “Then, you get used to it. After a couple of weeks, it wasn’t too bad.”
Lawrence immediately met with some of his new teammates, mostly all from the Dakotas, started attending team meetings, and working out. His work ethic in the weight room impressed his new coaches.
“First and foremost, I’m really impressed with Will’s physical size (6-2, 245) and really laid-back demeanor. It fit with the chemistry of our team,” Wockenfuss said. “And then from there, we got into our conditioning and spring ball, and that’s when I started getting excited.”
There was no turning back for Lawrence, whose dream of continuing his football career had come to fruition through his own hard work and determination.
“I just love to play,” said Lawrence, who returned to Gilroy on May 8 but not without a full summer work-out schedule of four days lifting and three days running. “It’s going to be a busy summer, just working and working out.”
Lawrence is expected to make an immediate impact for the Trojans, who finished with a 2-8 record last season.
“We actually didn’t even have a set with a tight end last year. We really felt a little bit limited without it. … We really felt we’ve got to go out and find a tight end,” Wockenfuss said.
“We’re really, really excited about bringing that to the table and make defenses prepare for another set we can be real effective with.”
Although Lawrence is not yet on scholarship at Dakota State, Wockenfuss expects “he’s going to step on the field and earn one. I have no reservations about that.”