Roy Exum: How Losers Keep Winning

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

One of mankind’s greatest truisms is that the pain of losing far outweighs the joy of winning. Before the opening whistle in any game, it is a given that one team will win and the other will lose.  Many believe that losing is the best teacher in our endless quest to win. It has been proven that if we’ll embrace the long-term lesson rather than that nauseous moment that comes when we fall short at the final second, we’ll try harder next time … and win. Woody Hayes, one of the premier molders of winners at Ohio State, famously said, “There’s nothing that cleanses the soul quite as much as getting the hell kicked out of you.” 

As a matter of fact, losing has produced more champions than not.

Basketball’s wizard, John Wooden, reminded us: “Losing is only temporary and not all encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.” 

When Trevor Lawrence and his Clemson Tigers were beaten 42-25 by LSU in Monday night’s bid for a back-to-back NCAA football crown, an uncommon number of us watched him carefully. Ever since Trevor arrived at Clemson, he’s never played on the losing side but, Monday night in a raucous New Orleans Superdome, his string of 25 straight victories was finally snapped. Before that, as a high school quarterback in Cartersville, Ga., he guided his teammates on a 41-game string before being upset at the end of his career by Blessed Trinity for the state title. 

Lawrence’s lone high school loss came on Nov. 17, 2017 … yes, it has been over two years since the last time he tasted defeat’s vinegar ... and for one who is such a stranger to losing, Lawrence handled it with such poise and class that even our society’s most despicable should stand and cheer. You see, that’s the way with champions. Many millions of words have been written and used about Trevor Lawrence in the last six years but there are a few things that you should know.

The first is something his mother instilled in him sometime before he was first asked by an adoring fan for an autograph – when Trevor was in the eighth grade. “This is what I have always told Trev (that’s what she calls her 6-foot-6 son) before he got really well-known. You’ve got to know who you are,” said Amanda Lawrence. “If you didn’t have all of these people telling you how great you are, you’ve still got to know that you are still worthy, you are worth somebody, and you are a child of God.”

His pastor, Don Hattaway at the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, heartily agrees. “I am not at all surprised by his success on the field. He has certainly the physical ability and the mental aptitude to be an incredible leader but, beyond that, I think his character is more inspiring to me. It’s not what he does on the field, it’s how he carries himself. I know he has a concern for people – he always takes time to speak to people … even little kids.”

Now let’s pick up on a surely award-winning story penned by Nichole Auerbach that appeared yesterday on The Athletic (a subscription sports website.) Under a headline that read, “How Trevor Lawrence handled, at last, the first loss of his Clemson career,” here are some delightful excerpts:

* -- TREVOR -- “You get so busy looking for what’s next, and a moment like this happens and you’ve got to — man, it sucks — but you’ve got to look back on what you’ve done, and we’ve done some great things,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got a lot more in store ahead for sure. But it’s just, you’ve got to look back and enjoy all the things you did accomplish because what we were able to do is pretty amazing to be a part of. I’m just going to miss this group of guys. And I hate how it finished.”

* - CLEMSON ASSISTANT COACH JOE SCOTT: “I told him, obviously there’s going to be a lot of eyes, a lot of people watching him, and this is a great opportunity for people to see who he is as a person, as a competitor,” Scott said. “He’s had so much success that even though we don’t want to go through this now, sometimes it’s good for you to have a little of this. I already know how he’ll respond, and I just told him that I loved him and appreciated him.”

* -- CLEMSON ASSISTANT COACH BRANDON STREETER: “He’s got an amazing heart, and he has responded in every situation that he’s ever been faced with,” Streeter said. “I just told him, ‘There’s a part of you that wishes life is perfect, and we’ve been perfect for 29 games in a row. But this is just life.’”

* -- WRITER NICHOLE AUERBACH: “As Lawrence walked through the bowels of the Superdome to his post game news conference on Monday night, he tried to (keep his head up.) He threw a white towel around his neck but kept his chin up and nodded to the ushers and security personnel he passed. One by one, they tried to lift him up, too. “Great game, buddy!” a guard with an orange vest called out. A few feet later, an usher in a tan jacket told him rather politely, “Good game, Mr. Lawrence.”

* -- CLEMSON HEAD COACH DABO SWEENEY: “He’s not going to lose many, I’ll go ahead and tell you that right now,” Swinney said. “He ain’t going to lose many. He’s going to be a hard guy to beat forever because he’s special. And he had a tough night tonight. For whatever reason, just didn’t have his best night. But I just — man, I wouldn’t trade him for nobody. I love that guy. That’s it. I just told him, ‘Hey, keep your head up. You’ve got a great opportunity here to respond.’ It’s easy when everything is good. “We go over there and love on him when he throws touchdown passes. I’m going to love on him when he has a mistake, too, because his effort was tremendous.”

* -- WRITER NICHOLE AUERBACH: “Just a few players remained in the Clemson locker room just past midnight. The rest had shuffled out, quietly, toward whatever next season or their next phase of life would bring. Equipment managers grabbed sets of shoulder pads that had been left behind. Towels and socks, too. A handler told reporters that time was up, that it was time to let the quarterback be alone with his thoughts and his teammates, or whatever he wanted. Lawrence glanced up at those who have covered him nearly every day for the past two years and some he’d never seen before Monday night and said, “Y’all have a good night.” He meant it. His chin was up again. He’d already started to respond.”

* * *

BY NOON YESTERDAY, in the aftermath of a game that was universally agreed took too long to play, a betting site known as Westgate Sportsbook released its early odds for the 2020-21 college season: The Top Five – Clemson at 9/4, Ohio State at 3/1, Alabama at 6/1, Georgia at 8/1, and LSU at 8/1

* * *

AFTER THIS SEASON’S HEISMAN Trophy winner, LSU’s Joe Burrow, hung 521 total yards and six scores on Clemson in the championship game, another sportsbook,, issued the early line on the 2020-21 Heisman race and Trevor Lawrence heads the list, followed by Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Southern Cal quarterback Kedon Slovis, and Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard.

* * *

ON ESPN’S “WAY-TOO-EARLY” TOP 25 for the 2020-2021 season, Clemson is No. 1 followed by Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, and Oregon in the Top 5. In the 6-to-10 bunch are Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Penn State, and Notre Dame. Next from No. 11 to No. 15 are Texas A&M, Auburn, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The No. 16-to-20 are Iowa State, Cincinnati, Boise State, Minnesota, and Baylor. The last five are Memphis, North Carolina, Iowa, Texas, and Tennessee.

* * *

JUBILANT VOLS FANS should relish the fact that UT’s 2020 schedule is ultra-light with just four 2020 opponents on the ESPN list ranked higher than the Vols. The Big Orange will play at Oklahoma on Sept. 12, host Florida on Sept. 26, host Alabama on Oct. 24. and play at Georgia on Nov. 14. Key games will include hosting Missouri on Oct. 3, at South Carolina on Oct. 10, and hosting Kentucky on Nov. 7. Tennessee should win against Charlotte in Knoxville on Sept. 5, against Furman on Sept. 19, at Arkansas on Oct. 31, hosting Troy on Nov. 21, and at Vanderbilt on Nov. 28. 

* * *

“I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.”  -- Muhammad Ali.

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