Lawrence Doe Jr loves football. Connally Jr., who has already earned two all-county tackles as a quarterback, loves to throw his 5ft 6in and 135lbs against bigger players. He enjoys disrupting game plans that try to take advantage of his size. He likes to prove that people mistakenly believe that his height is wrong.
But he doesn’t like the sport’s obsession with measurable numbers.
That’s just one of the reasons Dow’s real passion shines on the pitch, where the quick-footed forward leads a powerful Connally program that looks poised for another playoff run.
“Honestly, it’s a relief,” he said before a recent practice at Cougar Stadium on the Connally campus in North Austin. “When it comes to getting on the field (in football), size, height or weight doesn’t matter. It’s all about your technique and how you play. It’s all about your style. You can play freely and be yourself.”
Pele, Maradona, Messi. Football is a sport with a pantheon that values skill, hustle and heart more than size, height and weight. This is no different at the preparatory level; A year ago, Dow earned his county’s MVP and the American Statesman’s Rookie of the Year award, scoring 10 goals and nine assists during the game and scoring eight more penalties. He helped Connally to a 16-5-3 record and the County Championship before losing to Crockett on penalties in the first round of the playoffs.
Connally Sr. Jose Camarena, last season’s district MVP and one of the best center backs in Austin, lauded the area’s best forwards. According to him, none of them turned out to be as difficult as meeting Doe every day in practice.
“He is different from all other players,” Camarena said. “I mean he never gives up. He may be the smallest guy on the field, but he always fights. He has this passion and this aggression.”
But, José, do you ever nudge him in the chest with your shoulder to blow off some steam?
“I’m telling you, it’s hard,” Camarena said. “He’s tough. He will always fight for the ball. It’s hard to defend someone who’s always fighting. To be honest, I would be afraid to play him in a match.”
Doe credits his father, Lawrence Doe Sr., for instilling this passion at a young age. A native of Liberia in West Africa, the elder Doe settled in the Austin area with his wife a generation ago. Doe’s father brought his love of football with him and became a fixture on Sunday league games. Doe followed him, hosting his father’s practices and matches, juggling the ball at the end of the field.
“I was always by his side in training and his friends would tell him, ‘Hey, turn it on, put it in. He’s really good,” the younger Doe said.
More:Dripping Springs, Vandegrift Among Central Texas’ Best Girls Football Programs for 2023
So, Doe eventually took to the field and performed well against grown men who were not afraid to slide over a frail speedster with a deft touch and a fearless attitude. His Sunday league play caught the attention of some local coaches, and Doe joined the River City Rangers youth league in fifth grade.
Doe, who now plays clubball with the Austin Texans, began playing sports in high school, playing football and track and field. Competing in these sports, he says, helped develop his football game.
“I didn’t really start growing until my first year of high school,” he said. “Because I played short football, it gave me an advantage over everyone. It gave me this hunger. Even though I am not the tallest, I will make an impact on the field. I think it just helped my confidence.”
Ryan Ford, who led the Cougars to the playoffs in 10 of his first 11 seasons as the Connally boys’ football coach, understands the difficulty of playing football at a high level while competing in other sports. Dow, he said, successfully applied the lessons he learned in football to the football field.
“Having athletes playing different sports sometimes you have a little bit of doubt about their chances because football can take so long to hone in order to be successful,” he said. “Football in the US is very monotonous. But the level of competition in football that (Dow) had, the athletes he competes against… a lot of football players are not used to this kind of physical play. The ability to match his (football) technique with the ability to deal with the huge people he faces on the football field makes him a very special player.”
Connally football coach and campus sports coordinator Jason Cecil agrees, saying that Doe’s ability to balance multiple sports as well as heavy academic workload is evidence of “the right mindset.”
“He’s just a smart, tough, athletic kid,” said Cecil, who will leave Connally at the end of the school year. “In football, he’s a guy who gets picked a lot because he’s 5-6 or something like that. But he’s a super-intelligent kid with great speed and good ball skills, who uses his football intelligence to make up for his lack of height.
“It’s hard to do all the things he does outside of studying. That says a lot about how he takes care of his body and everything else throughout the year.”