By Charles Goldberg
NEW ORLEANS — Carl Lawson is serious about being a good football player, about sacking quarterbacks, about trying to make the right decision on whether to turn pro at season's end.
Thank goodness the Sugar Bowl has given the Auburn defensive end a chance to catch his breath.
"I will get too caught up, too stressed out about football," Lawson said Friday. "At the end of the day, this is a game and it's meant to be fun. I really appreciate this bowl experience, and I have been able to balance out making sure I'm prepared along with being able to enjoy the things that come with the Sugar Bowl.
"I'm extremely blessed and I'm going to soak up each and every opportunity I get. The little events they have for us, that stuff is fun. I'm into the game, but I'm also enjoying the things that come with the bowl."
Auburn plays Oklahoma on Monday night, and Lawson and his defensive line mates will be in focus against the Sooners' high-powered offense. Lawson said he's not prepared to say whether if it will be his final college game. Certainly, the NFL is an option.
Lawson says that decision can wait. He'll continue live this season, one that's finally been injury free.
"It's a great experience," he said. "All that bad stuff aside, every day at Auburn has been great. I have the fellowship with my brothers, and just got to live this college football experience. Everything leading up to this point has been a great experience."
His favorite Auburn memory? It's yours, too.
"Everybody's favorite memory is the Kick 6" when Auburn beat Alabama in 2013.
"I guess it's a generic answer, but it really is. It took me an hour to get back to the locker room after the game and it was a party on the field. It was crazy."
Carl Lawson says he's keeping his injury days in his past. 'Every day at Auburn has been great.' Video pic.twitter.com/iiNuuhVuWx
— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) December 30, 2016
Lawson leads Auburn with 12½ tackles for a loss, and that includes a team-best nine sacks. Those kind of numbers, and his quickness, have Lawson projected as a first-round NFL pick should he decide to turn pro. Lawson says Auburn has prepared him for the league, from the four years working with defensive line coach Rodney Garner that includes a redshirt season, to this season with defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
"They’re not coaching us just to be average college players, they are coaching us to be pros," Lawson said. "He tells us to go about our business as being pros and have a permanent mindset. He doesn’t want to sit there and yell at you the whole time. Get your work done and take care of your body, little things like that.
"I remember I was watching something on Kevin Greene the other day and Coach Steele was coaching Kevin Greene up on the NFL Network. Coach G has had multiple guys in the league. I’m telling you, since I was a freshman, he’s literally been talking about what the expectations of a pro are. He says ‘be a pro long before you're a pro’. Just having those two guys is very helpful and I'm very blessed to have those two guys.
Lawson says Garner has prepared him for the future. "When we were freshmen we were hearing these talks because he coaches us that when we leave here at Auburn we’re able to have a livelihood because it’s a job up there."
The NFL may be calling, but Lawson says he heard Auburn's call first. Nothing has changed.
"I felt it immediately when I got here. I really appreciated the Auburn family and what Auburn stood for and the integrity. It’s always been there, but I guess it grew the more I was able to experience it."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine