EL CAJON A spindly sophomore quarterback at the time, responsible for barking orders at 250-pound linemen, Anthony Lawrence dressed as follows to school for Halloween: a lime-green body suit, trimmed in pink with lime-green wings. He was portraying a Cirque de la Mer character (think SeaWorld’s version of Cirque du Soleil).
Today, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Lawrence heads into his senior year at Grossmont High very much the Big Man On Campus. Starting quarterback. Off-the-charts GPA. Multisport athlete. Popular. Life of the party.
Yet he’s still not devoid of dork.
Said Foothillers cheerleader Grace Schenck: “He’s definitely well-known … because he’s kind of goofy.”
Lawrence has been known to wear a handsome button-down shirt … with basketball shorts. For his Halloween costume last year, he dressed as Grossmont football coach Tom Karlo, down to the shorts, sunglasses, whistle around the neck, puka shells and gelled hair swept to the side.
“I was proud of that one,” Lawrence said.
“Anthony has to be one of the funniest kids at school,” said another cheerleader, Alexis Delmar. “When he walks through the door, you don’t look at him only because he’s the starting quarterback.
“You just know something will happen, whether it’s on Anthony or something coming out of his mouth. He just doesn’t care what people think. He’s completely himself.”
Do not be deceived, though, by the funnyman front. Lawrence oozes far more substance than style. He orchestrated 6 a.m. practices on school days in the offseason. He phoned players from other schools and developed 7-on-7 Sunday passing workouts.
His lunch hour is often spent in the coach’s office studying videotape. Lest you think he’s a pretty-boy prima donna, in the power clean lift — in which the hands are held wide on the barbell before the weight is hoisted to the chest — Lawrence is the strongest player on the team, lifting 275 pounds.
Regarding a quarterback being stronger than him, center Brad Boyce said: “I can’t say I’m mad at him. Only that I’m proud of him.”
Lawrence has played quarterback since the third grade. By his sophomore season, he was Grossmont’s starting varsity quarterback. He threw for 2,358 yards that year, tossing 19 touchdown passes vs. 16 interceptions.
Running Karlo’s no-huddle offense in the coach’s first year at Grossmont, Lawrence posted staggering numbers last season: 272-of-403 (67.5 percent), 3,480 yards passing, 36 TDs, 12 interceptions.
“He’s an excellent player,” said Helix coach Troy Starr, who tosses out compliments stingily. “I watched him as a sophomore, and I knew he was really, really good. He’s got a lot of poise. You can tell he’s a real sharp guy.”
With a 4.29 GPA, Lawrence has drawn interest from Princeton, Yale and Harvard. He says San Jose State and Utah State have communicated with him. But to date, no school has offered a scholarship.
As to why not, Lawrence thinks it’s related to what he identifies as his weakness.
“Height,” he said.
Talk about work ethic —Lawrence even does all he can to be taller, often hanging upside-down from an inversion machine at night.
Asked how not being offered a scholarship makes him feel, Lawrence said: “Kind of like angry. Kind of like disappointed. I go into the season with a chip on my shoulder.”
“I’m puzzled,” Karlo said of the situation. “To me, he can play in the Pac-12 all day long.”
Karlo knows that his quarterback hasn’t been offered a free education yet because he’s 6-1, not 6-3 or taller. Lawrence is blessed with a good high school arm, but not a howitzer. A varsity basketball player since his freshman season, he’s athletic but hardly a dual threat.
But Karlo, himself once a Grossmont High quarterback (1990-91), who played at Alabama-Birmingham, offers a prediction steeped in faith, blended with a tinge of bitterness.
“He’s going to be one of those guys who somebody gives a shot to and he just tears it up,” he said. “I’ll put my reputation on that.”