Sunday, July 17, 2016

Lincoln’s Legends & Legacy: Lincoln product Henry Lawrence (FAMU), Manatee County’s most successful NFL player

Through the Tunnel: Henry Lawrence earned All-America status as a junior at Lincoln Memorial High but was benched as a senior at Manatee High School because of Race.

PALMETTO, Florida -- Henry Lawrence’s life depicts the plight of the Lincoln High football program and how the players used camaraderie to overcome adversity.

A NFL first-round draft pick and three-time Super Bowl winner with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, Lawrence is the most successful professional football player Manatee County ever produced.

First, he had to conquer the effects of racism that almost derailed his career in high school and cost him significant money as a professional.

The offensive lineman played on the last Lincoln High football team in 1968. That year as a junior, he earned first-team All-American honors as a two-way lineman who played defensive end, tackle and tight end.

Integration came the following year and nearly the entire Lincoln team came to Manatee High to play the 1969 season. Most wound up on the bench and many quit. The coaching staff at Manatee was not prepared for the new era and treated the Lincoln players as second-class citizens not good enough to warrant playing time.

Lawrence was a standout defensive end who could terrorize quarterbacks and a person who believed in standing up for his rights regardless of the personal consequences.

After three games, he went to head coach Jack Mackie and explained his concerns about how the black players were being treated. The response: He was benched for the rest of the season. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Lawrence was replaced by an 155-pound white player at defensive end.


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