It can be hard to figure out the maturation process for any person. It is one of those things that is better to see a person living out through action, rather than just speaking it in their words.
Shaq Lawson seems to be coming to that point off of the field. Don't get me wrong, he still needs to take that next step on the field with his play. But if he can show to bring a positive affect off of the field, then it makes you think he should be to able to handle his on-field business on an even more consistent basis.
Last week, Lawson took a group of local high schoolers to the Underground Railroad Heritage Center right here in Niagara Falls. The kids, alongside his business team from his 'Shaq Lawson Foundation,' were taken on a tour throughout the mini-museum and given a brief history lesson on the 'Underground Railroad,' the Falls' historical ties to the Railroad and the many elements of the Civil War.
The coolest thing about this all was just seeing a man of color, using his platform as a professional athlete, to uplift children of color that may have come from a similar background as the Clemson product. Lawson knows his message may hit harder than a message from one of these kids' guardians.
As a man of color, I can only hope that more Bills/Sabres/Bandits/Bisons, or whatever sports teams around the country, has players using their platform to the best of their abilities. For some of these kids, these athletes are their biggest heroes and are the only glimmer of hope that they have of making it out of the troubled situations they may live in.
Talking with him, Lawson seems to be in a much more integral stage in his life than he has been before. It is not like he wasn't living a life that was up to par off the field or setting a bad example for kids. But it seems like now he's making more of a concerted effort to be a role model than ever before.
Lawson has been in these kids shoes before. Coming from the small town of Central, S.C., Lawson has come from humbling beginnings and knows what it is like to have big dreams. And these kids are just as welcome to have those big dreams, whether it's as an athlete, becoming a doctor or even simply just making it to a college campus.
The fourth-year pro has other big plans for this summer and the rest of the year — the 'Shaq Lawson Foundation' will be hosting a football camp, there will be a backpack giveaway prior to the start of the school year and they are already talking about big plans for a Christmas gift donation too. Lawson seems really hyped up about it all, claiming he wants to do "something for every holiday, just to give back."
One can only hope that this is a sign of Lawson 'showing' his maturation process and not him 'telling' us that he is going through that. One can only hope that this is the emphasis he can bring off the field, so he can bring that added focus once he gets back onto the field this season.
Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.