Cyrus Lawrence: ‘He was the greatest of all time’

Published 6:40 pm Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Legendary Southampton High School and Virginia Tech football player Cyrus Lawrence passed away Friday, Sept. 2, at the age of 61.

Lawrence’s former Southampton football coach Wayne Cosby and close friend and former teammate S. Bernard Goodwyn agreed that as great an athlete as Lawrence was, he was an even better person.

The magnitude of that statement is understood only after grasping the extent of his athletic accomplishments.

Lawrence is the all-time leading rusher at Southampton and at Virginia Tech. At each school, he achieved that status in only three years.

From 1979-81 at Virginia Tech, he carried the ball 843 times for 3,767 yards. More than 40 years later, he still holds the records for most net yards in a career, most rushes in a career, most rushes in a season and most rushes in a game.

Lawrence was inducted to the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, right alongside legendary Hokies football coach Frank Beamer.

While at Southampton, Lawrence helped the Indians win two state championships, and Goodwyn noted that the school retired his No. 45 jersey.

“He was the G.O.A.T.,” Goodwyn said, “He was the greatest of all time.”

Cosby said, “He was certainly the best. The only thing he ever said to me was, ‘Yes, sir’ and carried it to the end zone.”

Goodwyn noted that he and Lawrence have been close friends for close to 50 years.

“He was just a good-natured, humble, hardworking, kind and deeply religious guy in addition to being a phenomenal athlete,” Goodwyn said.

Now the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Goodwyn said he was inspired as a young man by Lawrence’s example in a variety of ways.

“He was such a gifted athlete, and he pushed himself so hard, and he worked so hard that, honestly, he was always just an inspiration for me in having me to work harder at my craft and being a good athlete,” he said. 

By 1982, Lawrence had established himself as one of the best running backs in the nation, and he had strong NFL prospects.

“He was projected to be a late second round, early third round draft choice,” Goodwyn said, but against the College of William & Mary during his senior year at Virginia Tech, “he had a devastating knee injury. And I think he had surgery on it, and they tried very hard to rehabilitate it, but it just wasn’t the same. 

“He missed the rest of that season, and I think he might have gone into camp with the (Seattle) Seahawks, but I’m not sure if he ever passed a physical,” Goodwyn added. “If not for that knee injury, I have no doubt that, honestly, he would have been an NFL player if not a starter.”

Goodwyn noted that he and Lawrence’s other friends could tell the quality of person he was by how he handled adversity.

After having his outstanding football career cut short by injury, “He met that difficulty in his life with courage and resolve and with good spirit, and he chalked it up to God’s will, and he moved on, and honestly, he did the same thing in dealing with his terminal illness,” Goodwyn said. “To me, he was inspirational.”

Goodwyn recalled that Lawrence worked for years for Lorillard Tobacco Company. He moved to northern Virginia for a while but returned to the area and has lived in Franklin for around 20 years.

Included among the family members by whom Lawrence is survived are his wife and three sons.