Mississippi State

‘I just dropped my phone.’ How Mississippi State landed Coast football’s hidden gem.

George County defensive back Dylan Lawrence (4) signed with Mississippi State on Feb. 6 after receiving a late offer from the Bulldogs.
George County defensive back Dylan Lawrence (4) signed with Mississippi State on Feb. 6 after receiving a late offer from the Bulldogs. amccoy@sunherald.com

George County football coach Matt Caldwell sent a text message to a member of the Mississippi State football staff on the morning of Feb. 6 to make sure they received fair warning.

The message was simple: His senior defensive back/linebacker Dylan Lawrence was scheduled to sign his letter of intent with South Alabama at 10 a.m. that morning “unless something else comes along.”

At 9:45 a.m., Caldwell was sitting in his office when he got text messages from two members of the MSU staff informing him that he needed to check his email.

When Caldwell pulled up his email, there was a scholarship offer from Mississippi State there waiting for Lawrence to sign.

“I just dropped my phone and said, ‘I can’t believe it,” Caldwell said.

At that time, Lawrence was in the boys basketball dressing room, uncertain which tie he would wear into his signing ceremony — navy blue for South Alabama or maroon for Mississippi State.

Caldwell called Lawrence into his office to inform him of the good news — he would be fulfilling his dream as a member of the Mississippi State football team.

“He just grinned from ear to ear,” Caldwell said. “I like to see good things happen to good people and he’s definitely good people. Mississippi State got a gem when they got Dylan.”

Lawrence received a call the night before from MSU head coach Joe Moorhead with a hint that he would get some good news on Tuesday, but there was no way to know for sure until the official documents arrived on Caldwell’s email.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Lawrence said. “I kept praying and God made the decision for me. They called and I signed with a great school.”

Lawrence, who also received offers from Alcorn State and Jackson State, arrived on the MSU football staff’s radar prior to his senior campaign when he began to make rounds at summer camps. He looks the part of a top prospect as a 6-foot-5 athlete who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, and he also features good grades and a strong work ethic.

It took longer than expected for the Bulldogs to come through with a scholarship, but the last-minute offer was an incredible relief for Lawrence.

“It was definitely a lot of stress for me,” he said. “I stayed up a lot of nights. They always told me it was going to happen, but they had never made it official. When they made it official, it just happened so quick and fast. It was a great feeling, turning my dream into a reality.”

Lawrence’s restless nights over the winter have given way to a hopeful spring as he prepares himself to take the next step in his football career. He just wrapped up a successful senior basketball season and has regained his status as a star on the George County track and field squad in the 200-meter dash and the long jump. He has a personal best of 23 feet, 3 inches in the long jump and should be in the hunt for a Class 6A state title in early May.

While he’s working out with the track and field team, Lawrence will also be focused on packing on the pounds. The coaches at Mississippi State have provided him with a workout schedule, and he’s doing his best to follow those directions.

After he was listed at 195 pounds as a senior, Lawrence weighed in at 201 when he stepped on a scale Wednesday. He’d like to be somewhere around 205-208 before he starts classes in Starkville this summer.

At 6-foot-5, Lawrence has the potential to grow into a player who lines up much closer to the line of scrimmage since starting his sophomore season at George County as a safety. As a senior, Lawrence shifted from cornerback to outside linebacker — in order to fill a need for the Rebels — and finished with 61 tackles and three sacks.

While Lawrence thinks he can make an early impact in an MSU secondary that loses several key players, Caldwell sees the senior adding weight and filling a hybrid safety/linebacker role where he can rush the passer, provide run support and also work in pass coverage.

“I think he’s going to be an outside linebacker/strong safety type of guy,” Caldwell said. “When he gets there, they’ll be feeding him three meals a day and he won’t be playing three sports like he does with us. He’ll be in the weight room. With the way they want him to eat, he’s going to get big in a hurry.”

No matter where he lines up, Caldwell believes Lawrence has what it takes to excel.

“I think the sky is the limit for him. I really do,” Caldwell said. “He’s got those intangibles. He’s got the work ethic and the attitude and the drive to be good. He’s just that type of kid. He wants to be the best at whatever he’s doing. That will enable him to go a long way.”

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.