By Kennington Smith
Two years ago, Ola head football coach Jared Zito met quarterback Bryce Lawrence and immediately noticed his work ethic and leadership.
“First impression was just that he’s a great kid,” Zito said, “As I’ve gotten to know him he’s probably one of if not the hardest working player I’ve seen in my twenty years.”
Fast-forward to this summer and now the Zito-Lawrence combination will be entering year three together. In 2016 the Ola Mustangs football program reached historic heights, thanks in part to Lawrence’s leadership under center. With their 6-5 finish, it marked the first playoff berth in school history. Head coach Jared Zito, who’s been with this team since 2014 is looking to build upon that for 2017.
And again, it will be the 6-foot-3 195 pound Lawrence who’ll weigh heavy on Ola’s success this season. He recently committed to Mercer University, choosing the Bears over Eastern Kentucky, and cited proximity as one of the key factors in his decision.
“The coaches showed me a lot of love and that it would be home for me,” Lawrence said, “It’s close to home so my parents will see a lot of games and definitely a great education.”
Lawrence has played in every game for Ola during the last two seasons. Last season, he threw for 1,372 yards and seven total touchdowns (six passing). The similarities between Ola’s offense and Mercer’s was also a selling point for Lawrence.
“The run-pass option we run here is pretty much the same as Mercer’s,” Lawrence said, “I don’t think it’ll be too bad of a transition.”
Before heading to nearby Macon, GA, Lawrence is focused on making sure his team is preparing this summer for another playoff run. Part of that is going to 7-on-7 tournaments and competing with other schools. He pinpointed a few areas of his own game that he wanted to focus on ahead of the 2017 season including his release point and getting more speed on the ball.
After Ola’s strong showing in Thursday’s Airo 7v7 tournament at Walnut Grove, the Mustangs are now done competing in 7-on-7 tournaments for the summer, and are looking ahead to padded camps before the season starts.
Much like Ola, Lawrence will be joining a Mercer football program that’s on an upward trajectory since beginning to compete again.
Since reviving their football program in 2013, Mercer’s posted a 27-19 overall record. Lawrence is looking to bring his winning ways to Mercer and help establish them as a FCS contender.
“They said I’ll definitely have an opportunity to compete for the starting spot,” said Lawrence, who’s planning on majoring in either sports medicine or business in college. “I definitely think I can be a leader, make those around me better and hopefully win some games for them.”