If he could’ve, Cameron Lawrence would’ve played football until his leg fell off.
It didn’t quite get to that point, but he knew his playing days were over once he underwent three knee surgeries following the 2014 season.
“When I spent that amount of time under the knife, saw 11 different surgeons, I started to think about life after football,” Lawrence said. “I rehabbed it for over a year, but finally realized I wasn’t going to be able to get back to the playing level I needed to be at.
“The sad truth, once the doctor starts cutting you open, it’s never the same. I was realistic about it.”
Realistic is a good way to describe Lawrence’s entire Cowboys tenure. He joined the organization as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2013, and managed to accrue three NFL seasons (the minimum to qualify for the NFL’s pension plan).
“Heck, I thought I was going to get cut after every week,” Lawrence said. “I took it one game at a time. As soon as I got hurt, I went back and finished my degree.”
Lawrence earned his degree in business administration and has been transitioning to the business world ever since his NFL career ended.
That fit his lifestyle as he’s an avid outdoorsman, but he switched courses in January when an opportunity to move back to his home state of Mississippi presented itself.
Lawrence took a job with a Birmingham, Ala.-based engineering firm that wanted him to manage its Mississippi branch. He is now working on steam boiler systems, designing and servicing them in the Jackson, Miss., area.
“It has been a 180-degree difference,” Lawrence said. “Football, an NFL player’s routine, is go to meetings and then go to practice and maybe lose five or six pounds during a two-and-a-half hour practice. But, man, getting thrown into the business world is like being a fish out of water. It’s been more challenging to make this adjustment than it was to go from a college roster to an NFL roster.”
But Lawrence finally feels he’s over the hump in transitioning to life after football. It’s not the easiest phase to go through, but he left the game with no regrets.
Lawrence was part of the Cowboys’ playoff run in 2014 with his final game coming in a playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
“Like everybody else, I would’ve rather hung my cleats up with a Super Bowl ring,” Lawrence said. “But to go into Lambeau and play against Aaron Rodgers and just the history of Lambeau — it was like 12 degrees that day. I cherish every single one of those moments.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. My physical limitations, I’m 27 and feel like I’m 47, but that’s just the price you pay for playing the game. The lessons I learned playing the game is just as valuable. You’ve got to take the good with the bad and sometimes that’s lifelong injuries.”
Lawrence isn’t sure if he’ll eventually find his way back to football. He’s had opportunities to stay in the game as a coach at lower levels and might pursue that some day, but has wanted to challenge himself to do something outside the game early in his post-playing days.
So, for now, that’s the daily grind of being in the steam boiler systems world.
“It’s a different industry,” Lawrence said. “I didn’t know much about steam boilers, but I have learned a lot. I’m used to tackling people for a living, so anything outside of that is new to me.
“But I wanted to see how successful I could be outside of a football field.”