Last week against the Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Manny Lawson made two big plays, one a sack and one a forced fumble. Given Lawson’s professional career, which stretches back to 2006, those types of plays have become routine for the veteran playmaker.
But the one thing that hasn’t changed is his enthusiasm for such plays.
“I enjoy them more so now that I’m invested in the league,” Lawson says when asked if his big plays evoke the same joy as they did when he was in high school in Goldsboro, N.C., or when he made a name for himself at NC State from 2002-2005. “It shows me I still can do it, that I’ve still got it. Veterans know it’s not going to last forever.”
Now in his seventh year in the NFL, Lawson is one of the more seasoned former Wolfpackers in the league. He was a first-round draft choice by the San Francisco 49ers in 2006 and left the Bay area as a free agent in 2011 to play in Cincinnati. He says that a key to a player like himself carving out a long NFL career is adaptability. And Lawson has had to adapt his entire career, playing defensive end for the Wolfpack but being drafted to play a linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. And with the Bengals, he’s had to adapt again, moving into a 4-3 scheme that he says is more cerebral.
“You have to read,” Lawson says. “You have to look for your keys. You have to read the fullback. Playing this type of linebacker is done more mentally and with more studying.”
Talk to Lawson for any given amount of time and his emphasis on studying becomes apparent. He talks of how education was stressed to him early on in his family. He came to NC State to be an architect but instead studied industrial engineering. And he discusses how his future pursuits after pro football will take him back to studying.
“I actually plan on coming back to school and see if I have the passion for architecture,” Lawson says. “I like that I could create something, put something on paper. And that someone may like it.”