Nick Lawrence is a big believer of that old saying that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Especially now after the former Timberlane football and wrestling standout from Danville reached his lifetime athletic goal in what may very well have been the last athletic competition of his career.

Playing semipro football for the Sioux Empire Crusaders out of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, Lawrence led his team to the league championship in dramatic fashion last month.

Playing in the championship game against the Watertown Rebels, Lawrence was at his all-time best. He rushed for 196 yards, caught a 70-yard TD pass, had 281 all-purpose yards and scored three TDs as the Crusaders prevailed, 42-33. He was a unanimous choice as the game MVP.

The MVP trophy and accolades the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Lawrence received were nice, but just winning the game was the most satisfying accomplishment of the day ... and his career.

“I’ve been trying to win a football championship my whole life, so this was really special,” said the 26-year-old Lawrence. “I thought I might finally win one last year. We were undefeated in the regular season but then got knocked off in the playoffs.

“That was the closest I ever got to a championship game and it was pretty depressing when we got upset and didn’t make it. I almost called it quits, thinking that maybe it just wasn’t meant for me to win a championship, but then I decided to give it one more shot.

For awhile, hopes for a championship seemed unlikely. The Crusaders lost two regular season games and one of them was 45-0 to the Rebels in a game Lawrence missed because of a knee injury. To come back and beat them in the championship game made the fruition of his goal all the more sweeter.

“Coming back to beat them, with the way the team came together, was the icing on the cake,” said Lawrence. “We came into the game ready to play, with a chip on our shoulder.”

Also making the championship special, other than the revenge victory over Watertown, was the Crusaders’ dramatic path to the championship.

In the quarterfinals, the Crusaders beat the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats 18-16 when Lawrence scored on a 2-point conversion run with 1:30 to play. Then, in the semifinals, they knocked down a pass in the end zone with less than five seconds remaining to nip the Med City Freeze, 26-25.

“I love the game of football so much and to get through the playoffs and win the championship like we did makes it so special,” said Lawrence.

With all the excitement, and his passion for the sport, one might think that Lawrence will continue to play, but that’s not the case. He’s ending his career by going out on top.

“I’m ready to call it quits,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of glory days (in sports) and i couldn’t ask for a better way to end it. I want to focus on my career.”

After getting a BA at South Dakota State, Lawrence received an MA from Augustana University in sports management and leadership. He’s currently applying to athletic administrative positions and the like throughout the country. 

“My ideal goal is to be in athletic administration and also be a football coach, maybe a running backs coach,” said Lawrence. “I definitely would like to stay involved in football. I feel like I have a lot of knowledge I can pass on.”

One thing is particular Lawrence would emphasize — don’t ever give up on your goal.

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The Nick Lawrence Journey

Age: 26

High School: Timberlane

Colleges: Iowa Lakes Community College, South Dakota State (BA), Augustana University (MA)

Sports highlights: Eagle-Tribune All-Star and all-state in football and wrestling, New England wrestling champion with twin brother Nate and E-T MVP; regional JC wrestling champion at Iowa Lakes CC, finishing 7th at nationals; gained more than 1,000 yards for three years of semi-pro football, championship game MVP in last game.

Future goal: Athletic administrator and football coach