January 11, 2012 Edition

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Derek Lawson (center) played in his final game with Arkansas State University at the GoDaddy.Com Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday evening. Among those there to cheer him on were (from left), his sister, Madison; parents, Ed and Tracy Lawson; and fiancee, Jade Segraves. He is also the son of Vivian Phillips.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Lawson completes ASU
career at GoDaddy.Com Bowl

Gretchen Hunt

Arkansas State University fans, including many from Lawrence County, flooded into the Mobile area over the weekend to watch the Red Wolves face Northern Illinois in the GoDaddy.Com Bowl.

The excitement of making it to a bowl game was bittersweet for Ed Lawson of Walnut Ridge, who was also watching his son, Derek Lawson, play in the final game of his football career.

"It's been a major chapter of his life and ours," Ed said. "I've been dreading seeing it end, but I'm anxious for him to apply his education and get out there in the real world and start enjoying life."

For Derek, making a bowl game his senior year was the icing on the cake.

"It was pretty fun," he said of the experience. "The first few days we got to see the sights. We saw a hypnotist and toured the USS Alabama. We don't normally get to do stuff like that on game trips."

His final game was also his first time to play in a bowl game.

"It was a tough loss, but overall it was a great experience and one I will remember the rest of my life," Derek said.

"This year, winning 10 games and going undefeated in conference to win the championship and go to a bowl was definitely the highlight of my career."

Lawson led his team in rushing at the bowl game, carrying the ball 12 times for a net gain of 25 yards. He averaged 2.1 yards per carry with his longest run of the game being 13 yards.

On the season, Lawson tallied 484 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Interim Head Coach David Gunn said Lawson was the team's most complete running back, able to both block and run the ball very well.

"Derek Lawson is a player that when it comes to being flashy and all those things, he is not; but when it comes to being productive, he certainly is," Gunn said. "He understood our offense better than anyone else in that position, so he was a complete ball player for us."

Joining his final game as a highlight of his career is the first game he ever played in for ASU.

"It was my very first game to play in my freshman year," he said. "We beat Texas A&M. It was a pretty amazing experience."

During the past four years, ASU football has been a big part of the Lawsons' life, with Ed and his wife, Tracy, traveling to all but one of the away games.

"It has made for a full schedule," Ed said. "We will continue to support ASU, though we probably won't be able to go to all the away games."

Ed said he is pretty sure the next time he sits down at ASU Stadium he will automatically look for Derek on the field.

Derek is a Nettleton High School graduate and began his career as an Indian. He said while it was not necessarily easy to make the change, he feels like the program experienced a rebirth of sorts with the new mascot.

"All of a sudden there were a lot more people wearing ASU stuff and Red Wolves stuff," he said. "It was pretty cool."

Lawrence County was well represented at the bowl game. In addition to the many fans who traveled to watch the game, Clay Hart of Hoxie is also a member of the team, though he did not see any playing time this season.

Michele Treat of Walnut Ridge is a member of the ASU cheerleading squad, and among the members of the ASU marching band are Lawrence County residents Lindsay Baltz, Alex Ditto, Adam Inman, Chris VanBrook and Nikolos Ryan.

Derek said the support of the fans was amazing throughout the season and then in Mobile.

"When we went out for the Mardi Gras parade, I wasn't expecting all the fans who came out," he said. "Then at the game, our side of the stands was packed. That meant a lot to me. All my friends and family were there and even old coaches from high school."

Gunn praised Lawson for having already completed his degree and beginning work on his master's degree.

"He has an outstanding GPA and his professors respect him as much as his coaches," the coach said. "That is what you look for when it comes to the ideal student athlete."

Now that Derek's football career has ended, he plans to complete his MBA and "hopefully find a good job." He is engaged to be married to Jade Segraves of Little Rock, formerly of Walnut Ridge. He is also the son of Vivian Phillips of Champagne, Ill., and the great-grandson of Marguerite Gwaltney of Swifton.

Coach Gunn said Derek is special and will definitely be missed at ASU.

"I hate to see him leaving," he said. "Derek Lawson has certainly made Arkansas State football better over the course of the past five years."

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