In his moment of need, Shaq Lawson’s teammates were there.
The Buffalo Bills’ defensive end was still trying to come to grips Sunday with the death of one of his best friends. Former Clemson running back C.J. Fuller was found dead at the age of 22 last Wednesday. Lawson and Fuller were college teammates, but their relationship ran much deeper than that.
“Man, it’s crazy,” an emotional Lawson said in the locker room after the Bills’ 13-12 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday at New Era Field. “It still don’t feel real to me.”
Lawson flew down to his native South Carolina to be around loved ones after practice Friday, then returned to Western New York to play in Sunday’s game. He got right back on a flight after the victory.
“I knew I had to be there for the family, and be here with my team, too,” Lawson said. “We had figured a way out for me to go down there. I'm actually about to go back down there tonight to see the family again, because I didn't really get to see everybody.
“It's been a tough week, for me, my family, his family. We was tight. Losing someone like him, bro ... he was trying to get it right. He was trying to bounce back from the ACL injury he just had, so it was just a tough week.”
The cause of Fuller’s death is still unknown, although family members have said he was experiencing chest pains in the days before he died. Not knowing the cause has haunted Lawson, who wrote on Instagram after learning of Fuller’s death, “My brother I am hurting right now. Somebody wake me up from this nightmare. My brother was supposed to come see me tomorrow. I love you bruh until we meet again.”
“He’s done everything and anything that we’ve asked at this point,” coach Sean McDermott said Monday of Lawson. “I’m real proud of Shaq as a young man. He went through a tough week last week with a loss of a good friend of his, and I thought the way he handled that, and the way his teammates embraced him and loved and cared for him during those moments were important, and I thought he did a nice job yesterday of staying focused on the task at hand, and had a good performance overall.”
Lawson made a key play in the victory in the third quarter when he forced a fumble by Titans running back Dion Lewis. The ball was recovered by safety Jordan Poyer and set the Bills up for a 40-yard field goal from Stephen Hauschka.
“He played well all day,” Poyer said of Lawson.
“I thought he did a tremendous job when you consider the weight that he was handling and carrying with him and to come out and play as well as he did,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Monday. “His focus, his effort, I take my hat off to him – just really appreciate what he did; it could not have been easy. There's no doubt about it. Also thankful for the support that our players, tried to give him during this time, but his effort and his performance was outstanding.”
Lawson played 19 snaps at defensive end a week after moving inside to defensive tackle.
“You knew what type of game this was going to be. It was going to be won up front. I seen the ball a little loose, I just started hitting it and finally it came out,” he said of his forced fumble. “That's what big guys want to do. Tennessee was a run-first offense. That's what we had to do, come out and stop the run.”
McDermott presented Lawson with a game ball after the win.
“You see him play on the outside, he’s played on the inside, and that’s really a credit to Shaq and his development,” the coach said.