What If? Rolland Lawrence's 1977 Season

Welcome to another entry of the What If? Fantasy Football edition. This is where I look back at a season long before fantasy football became prominent among us in our society as figure how the fantasy numbers would look if the fantasy game existed then. Today, we look back at the 1977 season for former Atlanta Falcons defensive back Rolland Lawrence. I'm using the default scoring system for Sporting News to calculate the totals with individual points counting for him in the same fashion as it would be for team defensive points. Then I'll explain why I chose to profile him and this season.

Here's the point scale for SN(default configuration):
60 points for every touchdown
2 points for every rushing, receiving, and punt return yard gained
1 point for every kickoff return yard gained
2 points for every reception
1 point for every passing yard
-2 points for incomplete pass
-10 points for every kickoff return attempt
-45 points for fumble or interception by offensive player
45 points for forced or recovered fumble IDP
45 points for interception IDP

Here are the stats for Rolland Lawrence in 1975 and fantasy points for the SN games:
Passing yards: NA = NA
Passing touchdowns: NA = NA
Incomplete passes: NA = NA
Interceptions thrown: NA = NA
Rushing yards: NA = NA
Rushing touchdowns: NA = NA
Receptions: NA = NA
Receiving yards: NA = NA
Receiving touchdowns: NA = NA
Kickoff return attempts: 1 = -10 points
Kickoff return yards: 13 = 13 points
Punt return yards: 352 = 704 points
Forced Fumbles: 0 = 0 points
Fumble Recoveries: 3 = 135 points
Interceptions: 7 = 315 points
Defensive touchdowns: 0 = 0 points
Total points: 1,157 points
Total points per game: 82.64
Note: Teams only played 14 games in 1977.

Although his fantasy numbers would have been far from stellar, he would have been okay to use in IDP(Individual Defensive Players) leagues because of his return ability as well as with the turnovers he had. Rolland Lawrence was a First-Team All-Pro for the Atlanta Falcons in 1977. The Falcons ranked first in pass defense in large part because of the play of Lawrence as he led the team in interceptions with seven in 1977. They also ranked first overall in points allowed and second in total yards while finishing with a 7-7 record. They allowed only one team all year to throw for over 200 yards in a single game(Minnesota had 212 passing yards in Week Seven). His 39 interceptions still rank him first in Falcons history. He had an 87-yard interception return touchdown on November 30, 1975 when he picked off Ken Stabler of the Oakland Raiders. His only other career touchdown came off a blocked punt in the 4th quarter on this very day of October 21, 1979 against the San Francisco 49ers. The 3-time Pro Bowl player never missed a game in his 8-year NFL career after signing as an undrafted free agent. He also started every game for the team in his last seven years at cornerback. Now, why I really chose him......

A few years back, I worked in Harrisburg, PA at an Office Depot store that has since shut down. I worked with Rolland's older brother Elu Lawrence, who at the time I started had been in our Copy & Print Department not long after I transferred there. Elu had moved from Pittsburgh to come to our store, and I worked with him for about a year. I had never heard of Rolland Lawrence until he brought an old football card of him into work one day. He then told me that was his brother, and I was stunned. I could tell they were related by looking at the football card though.

Nonetheless, he told me about his playing days, and that he was a former Pro Bowl player. He also told me that he came from a big family, which included nine brothers and four sisters. Three brothers and one sister are still alive, and Rolland is the youngest of the bunch that's still around according to what Elu told me. Rolland still attends various outings for the Falcons organization in Atlanta. I occasionally talk with Elu over the phone, and he currently lives in Harrisburg, PA. Rolland was born in Franklin, PA, and currently resides there. I plan on taking a trip up to PA this Thanksgiving because I have family and friends there, and we're going to meet up sometime when I go. Thanks to Elu for providing the additional information about his brother Rolland Lawrence, and now you know why I chose to write an entry about him.

Here's a post by 3rdStoneFromTheSun about Rolland Lawrence and some other past NFL Greats for you to checkout if you haven't done so yet:
Never Forget

Past What If? posts:
Walter Payton's 1977 season
Gale Sayers' 1965 season
Eric Dickerson's 1983 season
Jim Brown's 1963 season
Dan Marino's 1984 season
Jerry Rice's 1987 season
O.J. Simpson's 1975 season
Johnny Unitas' 1959 season
Sid Luckman's 1943 season
Sammy Baugh's 1947 season
Beattie Feathers' 1934 season
Charley Hennigan's 1961 season
Timmy Brown's 1963 season

Photos courtesy of beckett.com and checkoutmycards.com

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Mind of MadMan said...

I remember seeing him play infrequently.. the was avoided on that side of the field.

CK0712™ said...

SWEET write up daivd & a great great story as well!! how exciting to learn about him through a relative!!

i bet there are ALOT of old school ballers, living below the radar!!

David Funk said...

MadMan- Yes, he was avoided on defense, but it still didn't stop him from being the all-time leader in Falcons history in interceptions. I'm glad you still remember him.

Cindy- Thanks my friend. And yes, there are many old school ballers that live under the radar now.

I forwarded this to the Lawrence family, and I'm sure they appreciate the comments!

3rdStoneFromTheSun said...

dude, Rolland was so under appreciated, in my book, due to the Falcons ups & downs. He was a self made man who rarely got beat.

A man who could play in any era

David Funk said...

3rd- Agreed. They had strong defenses when he played, but they just didn't get any consistency on the offensive side of the ball from what I've read. I'm sure the Lawrence family appreciates the comment from you.