Since his last snap in a Mississippi State uniform back in the 2012 Gator Bowl, Cam Lawrence has had quite the eclectic journey, despite living in the same city the whole way through.
The spring following his last season at MSU, he signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, though he found himself on injured reserve after two promising seasons and was forced to sit out the final year of his deal in 2015.
The long-haired Lawrence, got engaged, got married and went on his honeymoon, all in less than 12 months. He became the co-host of a hunting and outdoors show, took a spot as resident heartthrob with the Cowboys, and even now, he’s working on his real estate license while finishing rehab from his third and final surgery as he prepares for the next NFL season with a new team.
But perhaps his most important accomplishment – after his marriage, anyway – came in the last week: three years removed from the day he left Starkville, Cameron Lawrence graduated from Mississippi State University. With a 3.3 GPA in business administration, Lawrence now adds “college graduate” to his long and ever-growing résumé`.
Lawrence got the email over the weekend telling him that the final class he took – a distance directed study he completed this semester from Dallas where he currently lives – was finished. The report: he got an A.
“I was fired up about it,” he said. “When I came out in 2013, my dad said, ‘I’ll roll over in my grave if I die knowing you didn’t finish your degree.’ I at least owed him that.
“I just was thinking back to when I came in, 17 years old, as a freshman. It was a lot of work that went into that, playing football and trying to keep my grades up. I finished with a 3.3. I know it’s not the best, but anything above a 3.0 is not too shabby. It was just a huge accomplishment for me.”
A 3.3 will certainly do just fine, and it’s unique to hear a professional football player talk about small numbers and decimals in terms of grades, rather than 40-yard-dash times. Of course, those football measurements will be coming up soon enough.
Working out five or six days per week at a nearby training center, Lawrence is nearing the day he gets clearance from his doctor to play again. Once that happens, and now that his contract with the Cowboys has been completed, the free agent will make his rounds (his agent says at least half a dozen teams are interested and waiting for his clearance) and find his new team.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy his time with the Cowboys, of course. Lawrence loved the three years he had with them, and his passion for playing football for Dallas was perhaps only matched by the joy he got from becoming part of the community, taking every opportunity he could to work with charities, attend events and be one of the faces of the Cowboys whenever players were asked to participate in non-football activities.
“There are always opportunities to give back to the city,” he said. “With the Cowboys being America’s Team, the fanbase is just awesome. Any time I got a chance to go do an appearance, sign some autographs, take some pictures, I always took advantage of it. I think that might have paid off for me when I was out there on the field. If you’ve got a fanbase that knows your name, knows your face, knows you personally, being able to make a connection helps a lot.”
However, the year away from football was frustrating, Lawrence admitted, his injury forcing him to watch from afar as his teammates practiced, played and traveled. It was the first fall he hadn’t been on the field in over a decade, a difficult five months for the former Bulldog. However, as much as he wanted to be playing rather than watching, the downtime gave Lawrence the opportunity to do some things he wouldn’t have otherwise had time for.
He got married, of course, to his girlfriend Shelby (“She was a Chi Omega at MSU, so, Hail State,” he said) and even had time for a honeymoon in Hawaii. He was able to fly back to Starkville once to watch his Bulldogs play LSU. He had time to finish his degree.
And most interestingly, the Coldwater, Mississippi native found himself as the co-host of DFW Outdoorsman, an outdoors show created by former Cowboy Marcus Spears on the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate. It is Spears who Lawrence has to thank for the gig, actually. Back when Lawrence was still playing for the Cowboys and when Spears was still hosting the show, Spears called Lawrence and asked if he’d come on as a guest for a dove hunt they were taping soon. Spears hardly had time to finish the question before the Mississippi-grown Lawrence was saying yes.
Later, when the producers of the show discovered they needed a new co-host, Lawrence got another call.
“We heard you’re from Mississippi,” Lawrence remembered them saying, “heard you like to hunt, so would you like to come along and kind of co-host this show?”
Again, the answer was easy. So far this season they’ve taped four episodes, the most recent of which airs soon and features a hog hunt. It isn’t necessarily a long-term plan for Lawrence as he hopes to get back on the field this fall, but the multi-talented Lawrence said he certainly isn’t closing the door on such a career, either.
“It’s been a fun ride,” he said. “I’ve tried to take advantage of the down time I’ve had.”
That’s sort of how Lawrence has always been, though – trying his hand at as much as he possibly can. He played both quarterback and linebacker for his high school team at Magnolia Heights, while also lettering in track and baseball. In 2011 and 2012, Lawrence became the first MSU player in two decades to register back-to-back 100-tackle seasons, all while maintaining that 3.3 GPA, as well as his long head of hair.
That hair, too, even came as something new, as the rules in high school stated that boys must not let their hair grow longer than their eyebrows, their ear lobes or the collar of their shirt. Like his brother (former MSU offensive lineman Addison Lawrence) had done a couple years before him, the younger Lawrence child jumped on the new opportunity when he went off to school.
“I kinda followed my brother,” he said. “The rebellious nature came out in the Lawrence boys once we got to college.”
And to be sure, no degree, job or wife has tamed that rebellious nature. Not completely, anyway.
“I’m still rockin the locks. The flow is still part of me,” he said. “I don’t know if I can take credit for bringing the fad back, but I like to think I was kind of ahead of things. I see a lot more college guys now rockin’ it.”
Long hair, hog hunts and outdoor nuptials aside, Lawrence remains fiercely proud of his latest great accomplishment, finishing school after three years [so far] in the NFL. With his degree in hand, Lawrence is planning to have his real estate license by the end of the summer, with Dallas again in mind. His project for his final class was a market research paper on the Dallas-Fort Worth area (“It’s had explosive numbers in growth.”), and as with anything else, Lawrence couldn’t help getting curious and wanting to be involved.
Football player, real estate mogul, TV host or to-be-determined, whatever Lawrence does next, he will do so as a college graduate, and he’s pretty dang proud of that.
“Getting my degree was pretty important to me,” he said. “I’m not naïve enough to think football is gonna last forever. My dad always said knowledge is power. Finishing up was a pretty big deal.”