Costa Mesa High senior Daniel Lawrence, 17, was honored by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame as a scholar athlete. Lawrence played wide receiver and defensive back for Costa Mesa High's football team. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / March 18, 2014)

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When Daniel Lawrence was a freshman, he could easily be described as scrawny, not really someone you'd expect to play football.

He was 5-foot-9, 115 pounds and what's worse he began to lose confidence. A lack of playing time can do that to any competitor, and especially a beginner.

But Lawrence didn't want to give up on the game. He didn't want to quit on himself.

Lawrence had always set the goal that he would play all four years of high school football. He saw the game as a connection to his father, George, who also played the game and remains a big fan. They both follow the New York Giants, because Dad is from New York.

Lawrence was just excited to put on a football uniform. But he admits, the lack of playing time and a rough freshman season challenged him.

You see, this isn't a story about a five-star college football recruit. And, that's OK.

This is about high school football.

"He's what high school football is all about," Costa Mesa High Coach Wally Grant said.

Lawrence improved each year with the Mustangs, and became a clear example of what hard work can result in just with his progress from his junior year to his senior year.

He had all of four catches as a junior receiver for the Mustangs in 2012. Granted, catches are not that easy to come by in Grant's run-heavy offense.

But Lawrence, now 6-3, 170 pounds, caught 26 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. He also stood out as a defensive back for the Mustangs and helped Costa Mesa win the Orange Coast League championship.

He earned first-team all-league honors.

But his story isn't solely about football.

Lawrence also excelled in the classroom.

His father is a teacher at Saddleback, and his mother, Mitzi, works a substitute teacher. They always stressed the importance of academics to their son.

Lawrence carries a 4.19 grade-point average. He is most likely headed to UC Irvine in the fall.

He was honored as one of 50 scholar-athlete award winners at the 44th annual National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame dinner on March 10 at the Anaheim Convention Center.

Lawrence sat and ate with the rest of the scholar-athlete award winners. Each kid had a story to tell.

Lawrence's was that of perseverance, never turning in his gear until his final season.

It's sometimes amazing what high school football can do. Aside from the desire to win there is so much more.