The connection was instant. Shaq Lawson was a freshman defensive end at Clemson, moving into his dormitory with one of his new teammates, Seth Ryan. Seth’s father, Rex, was coaching the New York Jets at the time. The elder Ryan made an unforgettable comment about Lawson graduating from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.
“He was just talking about how he had two first-round picks that attended Hargrave (ends Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples) and he said, ‘Maybe that can be you one day,’” Lawson recalled Friday, the day after Ryan had, in fact, made him a first-round choice of the Buffalo Bills.
Three years later, at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Lawson met with Ryan and other Bills officials for what the former Clemson star described as a “very comfortable” session. They talked about football. They talked about what Lawson could bring to the team.
It was a far cry from the meetings Lawson had with some other teams.
“The other meetings, I was nervous and tight, especially when they asked me who the fourth president was,” he said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ I had no idea who it was.’”
But that wasn’t the craziest question he heard. Not by a long shot.
“I had another question that was like, ‘How would you kill somebody?’” Lawson said. “It was weird. I can’t remember what I said, but I just sat there for a minute. Why would I want to kill somebody?”
Lawson said he couldn’t remember the team official that asked him that question, but the fact he shared the story should raise some eyebrows with the NFL, which has been looking into some of the inappropriate questions club officials have posed to draft prospects.
The final time Lawson and Ryan got together before Thursday night was on March 10 at Clemson’s Pro Day.
“I remember he said, ‘Are you ready to be a Buffalo Bill?’ It was just great,” Lawson said. “Last night, when I was waiting on that call, I knew Buffalo was sitting there at 19 and I was like, ‘Please come get me Rex.’ And when I got that call from New York, I knew I was coming to Buffalo and it’s just been a great city (to see so far). I experienced a lot (Friday) morning. I’ve seen the city and places and things like that.”
Then, there was the text he received Friday morning from his new fellow Bills outside linebacker, Jerry Hughes.
"He said he was ready to put an AFC banner up," Lawson said. "I said, 'Let’s do it man, it is here.'”
Lawson addressed other topics during his introductory news conference at One Bills Drive:
On Ryan’s defense:
“He puts defensive players in the right position to make plays, (he employs an) aggressive defense. I feel great having an aggressive defense.”
On how much he knows about Ryan’s scheme and how he thinks he fits into it:
“I fit into the scheme. They’re going to do a lot of different things with me. I can play either-or, so I’m just ready to get on that field and help this team out and bring a banner back here and bring a Super Bowl back here.”
On how prepared he feels to make the transition to the NFL:
“I’m very prepared. I’m ready to bring what I bring to the table – a guy who’s going to set the edge on the run, a guy who’s going to get after the quarterback. I’m just ready to play football.”
On questions about his right shoulder, which he injured as a freshman and which ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported would eventually require surgery, probably after his rookie season:
“I’ve been hearing about that for four or five months. I know where I’m at. I’m just ready to play football at 100 percent. At the time when I went to the Combine, one team that had flagged me was Jacksonville, they had flagged me, everybody else had passed me. And when I went back to the (Combine medical) recheck, a lot of teams said my range of motion was great. Everything was great, I had improved. I sent the video out Monday to all 32 teams of my bench press, and the whole full show of the workout.”
On whether he expects to need surgery at any point:
On wearing a brace on the shoulder during games at Clemson:
“Oh, yeah, I wore a brace my last couple of games my junior year, other than that my sophomore year I didn’t wear one at all.”