04/30/06 — Lawson selected No. 22 by 49ers

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Lawson selected No. 22 by 49ers

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on April 30, 2006 2:20 AM

Manny Lawson once said he started playing football simply because he was curious about how far the game would take him.

Turns out, it has taken him all the way to San Francisco.

Lawson, an All-ACC defensive end at North Carolina State, was selected with the No. 22 overall pick by the 49ers in the first round of the NFL draft on Saturday.

"I'm ecstatic," Lawson told the News-Argus in a phone interview from a draft party in Orlando, Fla. "It's been a great day, I'm excited about everything and I just can't wait to get to get started in the NFL."

Lawson, a 2002 graduate of Eastern Wayne, had 41 tackles for a loss and 21 sacks in his four-year career with the Wolfpack. He was ranked as the No. 2 overall defensive end by NFL.com behind teammate Mario Williams, who was selected with the top pick by the Houston Texans. John McCargo, another teammate of Manny's on the N.C. State defensive line, was also taken in the first round -- No. 26 by the Buffalo Bills.

"I'm very happy for Mario going No. 1," Lawson said. "I think he was a great pick for them. Then not long after they took me, I saw the Bills took McCargo at 26 and I called him immediately after I heard. I think it all shows what kind of defensive line we had at N.C. State."

The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Lawson is projected as an NFL "tweener," who could play as an undersized defensive end or an outside linebacker. He was rated the No. 22 prospect overall and third among defensive lineman on ESPN.com's draft board. NFL.com had Manny going No. 18 to the Cowboys, who decided to go with Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

That didn't surprise Lawson.

"Not at all," he said. "They never really contacted me and they didn't give me a workout. So, no, I didn't figure they'd take me."

San Francisco finished just 4-12 last year and gave up 24 or more points 11 times.

The 49ers finished dead last in the NFL in total defense as the 49ers yielded 391.2 yards per game. They ranked near the middle of the pack against the run (114.5 yards per game), but gave up a league-worst 276.7 yards per game against the pass.

"I think they made a great pick," Lawson said. "With me, they get a great competitor and warrior who will work hard and do whatever it takes to win. I really think I can go in there and help them out."

Lawson was the second ACC player taken in the first round by the Niners, who took Maryland tight end Vernon Davis with the No. 6 overall pick. Lawson got a call from 49ers head coach Mike Nolan just before he was selected.

"He called me and asked, 'What do you think about San Francisco,'" Lawson recalled. "I told him what I thought and he told me, 'Well, we're about to announce we're taking you.'"

Lawson and Nolan hung up the phone so they could both watch commissioner Paul Tagliabue announce San Francisco's selection. But it wasn't long before the two were talking again.

"He got back on the phone with me and told me they were going to fly me out to San Francisco and I'll meet the coaching staff and they'll have a press conference (today) for me and some of the other picks," Lawson said.

"I can't wait."

Nolan told the media that Lawson is not only a great athlete, but a great leader, as well.

"One of the things that impressed me very much in the campus workout, the guy who led all the drills was Manny Lawson," said Nolan. "There was no question setting up the drills, preparing for the drills, guys kind of moseying into position. There was no moseying in front of Manny. It was always, Manny was going to lead the drill.

"He's got some command about him."