Georgia wide receiver Lawrence Cager is close to making it to the highest level the game of football has to offer, and on every step of his journey, he’s been reminded of the same place he’s always called home — Baltimore.
And that includes a recent drive he made through downtown Baltimore.
“I drove past the Ravens’ stadium and I was just like, ‘You know what? I could really be playing right here,’” Cager said on Glenn Clark Radio April 20. “It was just like, ‘Wow.’ That’s when it really hit me.”
Cager, a Baltimore native and Calvert Hall graduate, is preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft after finishing up his college career at Georgia in 2019. While he might not have been the biggest Ravens fan growing up — he was more of a Reggie Bush fan — the team was an important part of his journey in becoming the player he is today.
“I remember when I was a young kid and guys used to come back in the community, “Cager said. “I went to a Ray Lewis camp. He didn’t say anything to me when I was young, but it was just that him being Ray Lewis and having a camp with inner-city guys, half those guys didn’t even finish playing football the rest of their life. But just for him to be there, it was like their biggest idol.”
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound wide receiver didn’t even always have football in mind, let alone playing in the NFL. He focused on soccer, basketball and baseball growing up. When he tried out for the football team at Calvert Hall, wide receiver was not initially on the table.
“My dad didn’t want me to get hurt for baseball or basketball season. But I wanted to play football, so he told me ‘Try out for kicker,’” Cager said. “And so I tried out for kicker that one day and went right to soccer tryouts the next day and made the soccer team in one tryout.”
But after working out with some of Calvert Hall’s varsity football players — including Trevor Williams and Adrian Amos, both of whom are now in the NFL — Cager realized he wasn’t a kicker. In fact, he could keep up with the more experienced players during one-on-one reps.
Cager quit soccer and focused on football. Cager was able to develop a great relationship with Cardinals head coach Donald Davis, and that relationship is one of the most valuable and memorable things from his high school experience.
Davis was key to keeping his “mindset straight,” according to Cager.
“Whenever I’m falling off, when he sees that I’m doing something wrong, to tell me, ‘Look, you did this wrong, go back to work, go in the lab, do it 10 times longer,’ … you just can’t thank a guy like that in your life enough,” Cager said.
Cager was eventually forced to make a decision between fall sports, choosing football. Luckily, football worked out very well for Cager at Calvert Hall. As a senior, the consensus four-star recruit caught 50 passes for seven touchdowns, and he had a 54-yard touchdown catch in the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He committed to Miami (Fla.), where he played from 2015-2018. He caught 45 passes for 681 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Really coming out of high school I wanted to go to Georgia,” Cager said, “but the way recruiting went down, it was unfortunate that I couldn’t.”
Despite an uptick in production throughout his time at Miami, he couldn’t forget missing out on being a Bulldog. Former Hurricanes head coach Al Golden was fired a day after Miami’s 58-0 loss to Clemson at end of the regular season in 2015, and offensive coordinator James Coley was soon out the door as well.
“I always had that in the back of my mind because unfortunately, my freshman year at Miami, our coaches had gotten fired, and one of the offensive coordinators had [gone] to Georgia right after he got fired,” Cager said.
Coley, who is now at Texas A&M, coached at Georgia from 2016-2019 and served as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator last year.
“This past year they made him offensive coordinator at Georgia and I just thought, ‘Why not give it another chance with him?” Cager said. “… I think I made the best decision of my life.”
Cager was able to make his dream to play at Georgia a reality, even if it was just for one season. He started six of the nine games he played, catching 33 passes for 476 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
Now with the draft starting April 23, he’ll soon know if that recent drive by M&T Bank Stadium foreshadowed his future destination. The possibility of getting drafted by his hometown team would give him the opportunity to share his journey with his family and friends.
“It would really be amazing. … My mom and dad came to every game, but all my family could have such easy access to me and the game and just being there with me,” Cager said.
But Cager is most excited to be able to give back to his Baltimore community, just like how Lewis and other pros gave back to him during his childhood.
“Once this all settles down, one thing I really want to do is just go back in the community,” Cager said. “… I want make sure kids, especially in Baltimore can say, ‘Look, you don’t have to sell drugs, you don’t have to do all this stuff — you can be an athlete or you can be a doctor or you can do something. You have all these resources that you can use, let’s find a way to help you use them.”
For more from Cager, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Chamberlain Smith/UGA Athletics