Lawal Does it All for Men's Soccer
Captain's versatility boosts Colonials
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
Christian Lawal chuckles now, admitting he ignored the first e-mail.
The GW men's soccer captain wasn't sure about performing in front of the entire athletic department.
Eventually, Lawal accepted the invitation to co-host the annual Georgey Awards last May. The senior from England dove headfirst into brainstorming skits and memorizing his lines before taking the stage at Lisner Auditorium to help the Colonials celebrate another successful school year.
Looking back, he's glad that he did.
"It was just a load of laughs, honestly," Lawal said. "I really enjoyed it."
That can-do attitude has served Lawal well over his GW career.
On the soccer field, his versatility and willingness to take on any role has been an asset for the Colonials. He saw time at forward, outside midfielder and full back this season before settling into his current starting spot at center back.
In addition to his star turn at the Georgey's, he's been active in the student-athlete advisory committee and the student-athlete leadership academy, while maintaining a steady presence on GW's Athletic Academic Dean's List. On Oct. 5, the Finance major showcased his public speaking skills again to moderate President Thomas LeBlanc's town hall meeting at the Mount Vernon Campus.
Time and again, he's reaped the rewards of stepping outside his comfort zone.
"I think being open to experiences is a massive thing," Lawal said. "You can't just go around and deny yourself all these opportunities. You never know what you're going to get out of it, who you're going to meet or what you're going to learn from it."
Without that spirit, Lawal might not have ended up at GW. Growing up a short drive from London in Pembury, England, he hadn't put much thought into a college career in the U.S.
He was about 16 when his father, Ramon, started pushing the idea. Soon, the teenager was driving around the region to showcases with American coaches and sifting through scholarship offers.
A trip to Foggy Bottom made a difficult decision feel easy. Four-plus years later, he's grateful for his father's suggestion.
"This has been a perfect fit for me," Lawal said. "I really love the city, and I love the whole experience I've had so far. No complaints, whatsoever."
Lawal has been integral to Head Coach Craig Jones' plan ever since. He's proven a valuable piece capable of fitting into any part of the GW puzzle.
He's been offering his coaches that kind of flexibility since his start in the sport. As a teen, he played for three different teams and did three distinct jobs.
Lawal was a forward or attacking mid for his high school. On his county squad, he played full back. With his local club, he started at center back.
It certainly helps that he's got the sort of size, speed and technical ability that plays well anywhere on the field. The rest is all about mindset.
"I think it just comes from having confidence in your ability and knowing the coach backs you to perform in that position," Lawal said. "Having that confidence is such a massive thing."
As a GW freshman, Lawal started out in the back before moving forward midway through the season. The Colonials needed his physical tools up top.
He tallied a combined 10 goals and five assists over the past three seasons, earning second-team All Atlantic 10 honors as a sophomore when GW won the conference regular season title.
Jones was happy to hear it.
"That's Chris," Jones said. "He'll do a job for the good of the group. It's not about him."
Lawal's selflessness allowed Jones to experiment with a variety of different lineups early this season. The coach was able to move his captain around the formation in search of his best 11 starters.
For the opener at Binghamton, Lawal was up top. Two days later, he was at right back for a shutout win over Lehigh. Then, Jones needed him at right mid.
Lawal was always in the starting lineup. He's one of three Colonials to open all 14 games. Sometimes early on, he'd have to wait until a few hours before kickoff to find out his position, though.
"It takes a little time to get used to," said Lawal, who has three assists to boost his career point total to 28. "Once I knew where I was playing, I just tried to get myself into the zone and get prepared to do the job there."
Lawal finally settled in at center back on Sept. 23 against NJIT. GW was coming off a 4-1 loss at North Carolina and eager to build momentum before A-10 play.
The 1-0 shutout of the Highlanders provided the jolt the Colonials needed. They're 4-2-1, including three clean sheets, with Lawal leading the defense. He's played every minute in six of those seven games.
"I think having him back there as a captain and senior leader he's really organized our team," said Reese Moore, the starter at right back. "It's allowed us to build off him and build off his positivity and get some wins."
Lawal's legacy on and off the field is secure, heading into his final two regular season home games this week.
He's the guy with the demeanor to keep his GW teammates relaxed in the tensest moments and the personality to command the Georgey's stage. He's made his mark with his willingness to tackle those jobs (and many more) with the same enthusiasm.
"You wish you had 20 guys like him," Jones said. "He really is what a student-athlete's all about."
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