BY JEFF FALK
For the past 17 years, the spin doctors have been proclaiming that this is the Dallas Cowboys’ season. Well, now this space is promising that 2013 will definitely be different for the ‘Boys.
That difference may not necessarily translate into wins on the playing field. But getting on the field will almost assuredly be easier for Dallas this year.
Meet Austin Lawrence. He is the difference maker.
Lawrence, a 2011 graduate of Elco High School, recently embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime internship with the NFL’s most celebrated franchise, and one of the most respected organizations in all of professional sports. Not unlike his contemporaries on the field, Lawrence will do whatever it takes to get the job done.
“I wanted to get my foot in the door,” said Lawrence. “I wanted to work in the NFL. I love the atmosphere in the NFL. And what a great opportunity to do it with the most well-known sports organization in the world.”
Lawrence, a junior at Virginia’s Liberty College, is currently in Oxnard, California, has been for the past two months. Oxnard, California is the site of Dallas’ 2013 training camp.
Players are scheduled to arrive on Friday and pre-season practice commences on Sunday. Dallas plays its first exhibition game on August 4th, breaks camp 11 days later and then opens its 2013 regular-season on Sept. 8.
“We’re all anxious for the season,” said Lawrence, who played baseball, basketball, football and soccer at Elco. “In my shoes, the coolest part is being around the professional athletes, just getting to see the players and getting to interact with them on a one-on-one basis. The season will be a blast.
“They (the Cowboys) gave me a shot,” Lawrence continued. “There were hundreds of guys who applied for the job. I’m blessed to get it, but any more it’s who you know.”
Lawrence’s internship with the Cowboys came independently of his education at Liberty, not through it. Lawrence, who will continue his junior year by earning credits on-line, found out about the internship through the friend of a friend, and was one of four chosen from several hundred applicants.
“That was difficult,” said Lawrence, who’s majoring in sports management with a minor in business administration. “Liberty didn’t help me out or get me here, but they helped me prepare for it. I’m still taking 15 to 18 credits over the internet. But to go out on a limb and to work in the NFL, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. God has put it in my heart to work in the NFL.
“The first thing I had to figure out was how long it was,” Lawrence continued. “I worked it out so I could continue to go to school, because the internship is all season long. It was difficult because I wasn’t in Dallas.”
Lawrence was directly hired by Mike McCord, Dallas’ head equipment manager, and specifically reports to defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and assistant coach Leon Lett. His duties range from doing laundry and setting up lockers to standing in at drills as a practice ‘dummy’ and taking out the trash.
Lawrence pretty much does what he’s told, and does so with a smile on his face.
“It’s pretty much hands-on in practice,” said Lawrence. “With Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett, I have the privilege of working with two great guys. Sometimes in practice we’re holding bags or running (pass) routes. Whether it’s jerseys, t-shirts or underwear, everything the players wear comes through us. When I’m working with the defensive linemen, sometimes I spot the ball or do the chains.
“It’s been the craziest experience,” Lawrence added. “Just being able to have one-on-one conversations with the players. It still amazes me. It was a crazy process. It’s a paid internship, which is a blessing. But it’s not the kind of pay the players get paid.”
During his childhood days in Myerstown, Lawrence was the middle child of three boys in a sports-minded family. He always enjoyed NFL games, but didn’t necessarily root for one team over any other.
“Growing up, I would go to Eagles games because we lived close to Philadelphia,” said Lawrence. “I was never that big of a fan. But I can remember going to Eagles’ games with my family. Now, just because of the way they treat me, I’m a die-hard Dallas Cowboys’ fan.”
Lawrence, who has worked in the athletic marketing department at Liberty, always sort of knew he wanted to be involved with the administrative side of sports. But it was only recently that he discovered his true and specific calling.
“In high school, it was like I wanted to be an athletic director or a sports agent,” said Lawrence. “In college, you go in-depth with these professions and you figure things out. I’d probably say that in my second semester of my freshman year, things started hitting me about the route I wanted to go. I know I have to start at the bottom and work my way up. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work.
“I was at an athletic conference at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in March and I realized I had to work on my internship, work on my resume and work on my connections,” Lawrence continued. “I do have to have an internship for my major, and this will count towards it. I encourage kids to get out there and intern as much as possible, even if it’s as a volunteer.”
When Lawrence’s internship with the Cowboys ends in February, 2014, he plans to go back to Liberty to finish his bachelor’s degree. But ultimately, he would like to get back into the NFL and make a career out of it.
“Right now, my goal is to transition to the marketing department or the player personnel department of an NFL team,” said Lawrence. “My plans are to build up my resume, finish school and to look to get into a marketing department of an NFL organization.
“Of those things, the biggest thing is connections,” Lawrence added. “Another important thing is communication, whether it’s taking out the trash or sitting in an office with a tie. For me as a Christian, my job is to talk to people and share my beliefs. My biggest thing is trusting in God. No matter which way he takes me, I will be perfectly content.”