Few could match Lawrence Cager’s athleticism at Calvert Hall.
As a freshman, the Forest Park resident earned a spot on the junior varsity squad in soccer, but chose football on the advice of upperclassmen such as wide receiver/cornerback Trevor Williams (Penn State, Philadelphia Eagles) and strong safety Adrian Amos (Penn State, Green Bay Packers). As a sophomore, he made the varsity teams in football, basketball and baseball. As a junior, he replaced basketball and baseball with indoor and outdoor track and field, setting the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association indoor record in the high jump in 2014.
Donald Davis, who coached Cager in football and track and field, marveled at his versatility.
“He’s a kid that could do everything,” Davis recalled. “I thought he was just a tremendous athlete — gifted in a lot of different ways.”
While some athletes might have balked at the seemingly endless rigor of games, meets and practices, Cager craved it.
“It was a blessing, and it really just helped me with every sport because I was always in shape,” he said. “A lot of the sports integrated with each other, and a lot of the fundamentals boiled down to hand-eye coordination. In baseball, I was a center fielder, and I was tracking fly balls every day. So going to catch a go ball in football was so easy for me because it was like a routine fly ball. … A season ended, and it was, boom, time to go to baseball or to basketball or to track. I liked it. It kept me busy.”
Cager eventually whittled his focus to one sport, and he is on the cusp of turning a childhood fantasy into reality. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound wide receiver is projected to be a late-round pick in the NFL draft, which runs April 23-25.
“It still has to happen though,” he cautioned. “So we’re on the backburner with that. But when you sit back and realize what you’re training for and working for as the ultimate dream as a little kid is here, it’s amazing.”
After earning All-Metro second-team status from The Baltimore Sun as a senior at Calvert Hall, Cager went to Miami. In his senior year in 2018, he led the Hurricanes in touchdown catches (six) and yards per reception (17.8) and amassed career highs in catches (21) and yards (374).
But Cager, who had another year of eligibility after sitting out his sophomore season after undergoing knee surgery, was unhappy with his last run at Miami.
“It was really on me,” he said. “I got a little unfocused, kind of settled a little bit and had some bad plays on some routine plays that I know I can make. So I just really honed my focus and really came back with a different type of hunger.”
In February 2019, Cager announced he would transfer to Georgia, but was unable to join the program until after he graduated from Miami in May. Still, after diving into film sessions with quarterback Jake Fromm and training under the watchful eyes of coach Kirby Smart and assistant head coach James Coley, Cager emerged as the Bulldogs’ top receiving threat.
Through the team’s first 10 games, he led the offense in receptions (33) and touchdown catches (four). He compiled 132 receiving yards in a 24-17 win at Florida on Nov. 2, the most by a Georgia receiver in more than six years.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset because it was my senior year and we were about to play in the SEC championship next week,” said Cager, who played earlier despite a separated shoulder. “That’s one of the biggest games I wanted to play in. I just felt like me being able to play would have given us a spark. We already had juice, but me being able to play would have taken us over the top. We really could have competed with LSU.”
Smart noted that Cager arrived after the program had lost four wide receivers in Mecole Hardman, Riley Ridley, Isaac Nauta and Terry Godwin who were all taken in the 2019 NFL draft.
“Lawrence gave us both the on-field production and the off-the-field leadership that we needed at a very critical position,” Smart said through a team spokesman. “His injury late in the season was unfortunate, but I’m confident he still has football in his future.”
Medically cleared about a month ago to return to train, Cager has been working out at Bommarito Performance Systems in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The coronavirus outbreak has prevented him from being able to demonstrate his health to NFL scouts, but he acknowledged that the pandemic has given him time to rehabilitate his ankle.
“Obviously, for the whole country, it’s not a benefit, but from my perspective, it’s a benefit,” he said. “It’s giving me more time to get healthy, more time to fine-tune some things that I haven’t done in four months. I’ve just been working hard every day to get back to being game-ready.”
Cager has chafed at reports critical of his speed, but Davis, his coach at Calvert Hall, said Cager has an innate ability to “get small.”
“Everybody thinks that big receivers are guys that can just climb the ladder,” Davis said. “He’s a guy that can go down and get balls, catch balls on the sidelines. He understands the game. So he knows how to manufacture first downs, how to get to the sticks and convert first downs. That’s the one big thing he can bring to a team.”
Despite projections as a Day Three selection, Cager said he promises to help the team that chooses him.
“Whoever takes me whatever day and whatever round is going to get a player that is going to try to outwork every single person in that building – whether it’s a $100 million person or it’s a practice squad player,” he said. “I’m going to come in and try to outwork everybody to prove that you didn’t just draft a backup player, but that you drafted a player who’s putting the work in to try to be an all-time great.”