Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence revealed Thursday he tested positive for COVID-19 and will be unavailable Saturday when the Tigers face Boston College.
Lawrence, the front-runner in this year’s race for the Heisman Trophy, is in isolation with mild symptoms. Players and staff who test positive are required to quarantine for at least 10 days, which could jeopardize Lawrence’s availability for Clemson’s biggest game of the season, a Nov. 7 showdown with No. 4 Notre Dame.
Atlantic Coast Conference protocol requires teams to be tested three times a week.
Lawrence released a statement via Clemson’s Twitter account.
“I have tested positive for COVID-19, and my symptoms have been relatively mild while I’m following the protocol from Clemson and the ACC,” Lawrence said. “The only thing that hurts is missing an opportunity to be with my teammates this weekend and play the game I love. I hate that I can’t be there, but I’ll be watching from isolation and pulling for our guys while I wait for the opportunity to rejoin the team. God bless and Go Tigers!”
In a separate statement, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney confirmed initial reports that Lawrence tested positive.
“Trevor has authorized us this evening to announce that he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in isolation,” Swinney said. “He is doing well with mild symptoms but will not be available for this week’s game against Boston College. While we certainly will miss Trevor, this is an opportunity for other guys to step up and we’re excited about competing against a very good BC team on Saturday. Go Tigers.”
No one from Boston College was available for comment. The Eagles' program has had just one player test positive for COVID since returning for voluntary workouts in June. They’ve conducted more than 5,500 tests.
When the NCAA allowed teams to return over the summer, Clemson was immediately hit hard with infections. The program shut down voluntary workouts in June after an outbreak of 37 infected players and staff members.
Since June, the Clemson athletic department has conducted 11,554 COVID-19 tests, with 173 positive results, and 137 of those positives were student-athletes. Thirty-six were staff. None of them needed to be hospitalized.
According to a New York Times report on Oct. 8, the 4,082 confirmed COVID cases on Clemson’s campus was second only to the University of Georgia among colleges nationwide. Clemson is now up to 4,565 cumulative positive cases since it started testing in June.
Swinney was among the more outspoken coaches pushing for the return of college football this year. While sports were suspended in April, he told ESPN he had “zero doubt” that the college football season would start on time.
“That’s just my mind-set. I’ve got one plan, and that’s to get the Tigers ready to play in late August, early September,” Swinney said. “I’ll leave it to the smart people to figure out the doomsday scenarios. We’ve got one scenario, and that’s to run down that hill and kick it off in the valley.”
Lawrence, who has thrown for 1,833 yards and 17 touchdowns for the 6-0 Tigers, was asked Wednesday about the protocols at Clemson.
“Just trying to stay safe,” he said. "You can’t control it obviously. There’s some situations where guys get it, you just don’t know how to get it. But I’m just trying to be as safe as possible. But yeah, we’ve thought about it and we’re preparing for any situation.
“We know that at some point in the year it’s more likely than not that that’s going to happen to somebody on our team, just with the way the viruses and how fast it spreads. You just never know, so we’re preparing every week. That’s why everybody’s got to be ready to play.”
Without Lawrence in the lineup, the Tigers will likely to turn to freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, who has emerged as Clemson’s No. 2 quarterback. In five games this season, the 6-foot-5-inch, 245-pound Uiagalelei is 12-for-19 passing for 102 yards.
Lawrence, 21, was a leading figure in an August campaign by a number of college football players to push against calls for the sport to shut down amid the pandemic.
“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence wrote then on Twitter. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract [the virus] . . . Football is a safe haven for so many people. We are more likely to get the virus in everyday life than playing football.”
President Trump, who for months has advocated for economies to reopen and for sports events to resume, said in August that he had spoken with Lawrence about the issue. Lawrence, whom Trump described as “very smart,” wanted to “play football,” said the president, adding, “Let ’em play.”
The world of college football was rocked earlier this month when Alabama coach Nick Saban was announced as having tested positive for the coronavirus. However, he tested negative three straight times shortly after that and was on the sideline for the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s next game, a win over then-No. 3 Georgia.
Alabama’s team physician, Jimmy Robinson, said at the time that according to the SEC’s coronavirus protocols, the three negative tests allowed Saban’s initial result to be deemed a “false positive.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.