‘Mental talk’ sparked All-Pro season

Giants defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence tackles some playoff Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.

Q: Why is it fun being a bully on the field?

A: (Laugh) You get to legally beat somebody’s ass pretty much. It’s a lot of joy in that just to dominate a guy. And it’s not like celebrating over him, it’s more like just celebrating what you just did to another professional, you know what I mean? I’m always a nice guy off the field, and on the field I just get to tap into something else.

Q: Do you hope opponents fear you?

A: I don’t hope they fear me, but if that’s what it is, then that’s what it is. I don’t think I go into a game like, “I’m gonna make you fear me,” but I’m gonna impose my will on anybody I play and do my best to try to dominate him.

Q: You play angry? Mean? How would you describe it?

A: I’m having fun, but I think it’s a pride thing that you have when you’re on the field, you don’t want to get embarrassed, you want to be the one to be in control every play, and just do it for your guys. So I think that’s where I know I gotta play a certain way to be able to do that, and that requires me to play a little more with an attitude. I’m not necessarily angry or call you motherf—ers or none of that, it’s more of just like I’m just talking a little s–t and I’m just having fun, and doing it with my guys.

Q: When did your trash talking begin?

A: Probably high school. (Laugh) All right, so, legit story. It was like my junior year of high school, we’re playing Nyheim Hines [and Garner Magnet High) in the game before the [N.C.] state championship. And like the whole week, he was just talking about like, “Oh we’re gonna get them,” this and that. And then when the game come, I’m just talking trash to him the whole time. I don’t think he talked to me for like two months after that or something like that.

Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence of the Giants celebrates against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on December 18, 2022.
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Q: What were you saying to him?

A: I was just like calling out his name. … It was beginning of my trash talk, so I didn’t really have a good game on me, but then college, it kind of got a little bigger — playing with Christian [Wilkins at Clemson], he likes to talk a little trash (laugh).

Q: Who’s second to you on the defense as a trash talker?

A: Probably “Smooth,” Jaylon Smith.

Q: What’s the best line you’ve used so far?

A: I really can’t remember a lot of ’em ’cause it just comes right off the dome. I don’t prepare anything. I gotta go back and watch the tape (laugh).

Q: Do you run up against offensive linemen that trash talk back?

A: Oh, real for sure. And then that just kind of pisses me off even more (laugh).

Q: So trash talk gets you going?

A: Yeah, if you talk trash to me, but when I’m talking trash, I’m just having fun doing my thing. If you talk s–t back, then it motivates me a little more.

Q: Tom Coughlin used to say, “Big people allow you to compete.”

A: I think the game is ran by O-line, D-line. Everything starts right there at the line of scrimmage. That’s another thing I take pride in, being able to control the line of scrimmage and set the tone, and just get everybody on the same page as me.

Q: You’re 6-foot-4, 342 pounds. Is it fun being big?

A: Sometimes. You gotta get bigger Ubers, hard to find clothes, you gotta get the right kind of bed, hard to find shoes. … It’s got its struggles. Gotta get a bigger house.

Q: Bigger house?

A: Yeah, so the ceilings don’t be too low. I don’t want to have to walk through a house like just feeling squished. Gotta have open spaces.

Q: You are an All-Pro this season. How proud of you of how far you’ve come?

A: I think it’s been a gradual thing. Each year I’ve been improving, and that’s been my goal. This year we’re winning, along with my improvement, so it’s bringing more attention. I told myself if that happens, don’t shy away from it, embrace it. It’s kind of like a mental talk I had with myself before the whole season. Just don’t be afraid of the shine or the lights and just keep rolling and keep going.

Q: Why did you need to have that mental talk with yourself?

A: Because I feel like probably in the past, I was always low-key, never in the limelight, didn’t want the limelight, so this year I said when it comes just embrace it and keep playing.

Q: What are the things do you think you need to do to be legendary?

A: Continue being consistent. I think when you talk about legends, they’re consistent throughout their whole career. That’s the stressor or the pressure I put on myself is to stay consistent and be the guy my teammates can depend on.

Q: What is one reason why you are an elite nose tackle?

A: I think I just learned how to use my strength and play with my length.

Q: When did you start seeing yourself as Sexy Dexy?

A: (Laugh) College. I started getting a little swag, get a nice haircut (laugh), looking nice. Then when I got to NFL, I could dress a little nicer, clean up a little bit better, smell good, all that stuff.

Q: Do you get emails about your sack dance?

A: (Laugh) I see it a lot on the internet. I see people try to do it, which is funny. I think Wink [Martindale, defensive coordinator] said like a college guy did it one time during the game after he got a sack. Just to see it blow up like that, it feels good.

Q: How emphatic would your playoff sack dance be?

A: That’d be legit. ’Cause only [seven conference] teams playing, a lot of people are gonna be watching that game, and just to break it out one time, it’d be smooth, it’d be fun.

Q: You might add something to it?

A: I might get a little lower (laugh).

Q: What do you know about New York Giants defensive tradition?

A: (Laugh) Gritty. Guys just playing hard, and not quitting, no matter what the circumstance is.

Q: Watching Michael Strahan play, what do you remember?

A: Just a monster, played with a lot of enthusiasm, like energy. I think he had a good talk game, too (laugh), he talked a lot of trash.

Q: You’ve watched Lawrence Taylor clips. What’d you think of him?

A: He’s a monster (laugh).

Q: How about when you watch clips of Dexter Lawrence?

A: He’s a monster (laugh). I surprise myself sometimes. … It’s a surprise, but it’s not a surprise at the same time. I’ve worked hard, I know what to expect to happen. But to actually see it happen is a different thing.

Dexter Lawrence sacks Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

Q: Describe Kayvon Thibodeaux.

A: I think he’s really smart, and knows a lot about football and about life. He just expresses it in a different way (chuckle) that’s kind of big-headish.

Q: Big-headish?

A: Yeah, like a little, like, arrogance. But that helps him with his play. You gotta accept people for who they are. I don’t think he’s a bad person what the media tried to put out there, I think he’s a good dude and just has a lot of pride, but he respects the guys above him.

A: Azeez Ojulari.

A: I think Azeez is a great rusher. A quiet dude, gotta get the personality out there a little more. Always got a smile on his face. He had a tough season this year going through injuries, but continued to have a smile on his face.

Q: Haddy, Jihad Ward.

A: Big personality. That’s another guy, you gotta accept them for who they are. He means well, he understands what it takes to win, and I think he leads without even being a captain.

Q: Jaylon Smith.

A: He’s very vocal on the field and off. He has good relationships with guys and he plays hard, and you like to see that.

Q: What is your definition of captain leadership?

A: I think the first thing for me has been a servant leader. Just doing things for my teammates just to earn their respect — if that’s talking to ’em about this, helping ’em with this. Just little things. Or getting something for ’em, not being too prideful or egotistic not to just give ’em a water bottle or anything like that. And then, after that, just building those relationships you learn how to communicate with people, you learn what makes them itch, you learn what motivates them.

Q: Your fellow captains, tell me how they lead: Saquon Barkley.

A: I think he’s more of like a visual leader. People kind of attract to him because he’s a likeable guy. You see him work hard, you see him take care of his body, you see him finish almost every run in practice, so it’s really impressive to see, I even tell him about that.

Q: Daniel Jones.

A: Daniel is a guy that is not gonna say too much, but you’re gonna see him be here early as heck, studying, working hard, getting guys together. He’s been a little more vocal this year, earning a lot of respect from guys.

Q: Andrew Thomas.

A: He don’t say much (smile). He just puts his head down and let’s his play show and lead for him.

Q: Xavier McKinney.

A: He’s a more vocal guy, stern, gets guys going, trying to help guys understand the importance of every little thing.

Dexter Lawrence celebrates during the Giants’ regular season game against the Vikings.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Q: Leonard Williams.

A: Leo leads by example. He works hard, don’t say much, relates to a lot of people, and just a good dude.

Q: Julian Love.

A: Julian is more vocal, but not as stern as Xavier, but he gets guys going too.

Q: What do you mean stern?

A: Like Xavier is like, “Let’s go,” kind of like puts his foot down. He understands what it takes to win.

Q: Cam Brown.

A: Cam is a visual leader, too. You just see how hard he works, how much pride he takes in doing his role on special teams, and that’s big.

A look at the 2023 NFL Playoffs bracket.
A look at the 2023 NFL Playoffs bracket.
New York Post illustration
NY Post illustration

Q: Graham Gano.

A: (Laugh) He’s just a clown, he keeps the positivity there, keeps the mood light.

Q: Casey Kreiter.

A: He leads the same way as Graham. Keeps the mood light, knows how to motivate the guys on special teams and understands their roles.

Q: Why did you and Leo click right away?

A: I didn’t really think about it this way but if you’re coming to a team that I’m on, I’m gonna show love, I’m gonna be like, “Welcome,” things like that. He came over here not knowing what to expect, like if dudes are gonna accept him, so I think when I just DM’d him and said, “Welcome,” something like that, he already knew that it was somebody here that was gonna welcome him in. So I did that just being me, just being Dex. And I used to watch him (chuckle) when I was in high school. We just started talking, and we kind of clicked, and it just happened from there.

Q: What is your funniest Wink moment?

Dexter Lawrence talks to the media.
Corey Sipkin

A: I don’t think there’s one, but he has a lot of punch lines that like go over your head that you gotta think about sometimes. He keeps us understanding the importance of playing for each other, being selfless and continue to grind no matter what it is. I think he’s just a great leader, honestly. He understands who he is as a person, and who he is as a coordinator, and how he can get guys to play for him, and play for each other, and just do it with some swag and some confidence.

Q: If you could pick the brain of any defensive lineman in NFL history, whose would it be?

A: I think it runs deeper than just on-the-field stuff, ’cause your off-the-field life helps with on-the-field stuff. It probably can happen if I try, but Strahan, just to pick his brain. He played 15 years, something like that? And now he’s set up for life with whatever he wants to do off-the-field because he started understanding what he liked before he retired.

Q: What is your game plan for life after football?

A: I definitely want to be involved with like kids, just helping impact their life from a younger age and teach them the little ways of life, and teach them discipline and leadership and all that stuff.

Q: Why would that be important to you?

A: Growing up, I didn’t really have like a male figure teaching me those things, and I think it’s very important.

Q: Your mother worked as a corrections officer in a prison. Did she tell you any stories?

A: She was like, y’all don’t need to end up there, pretty much, talking to me and my brother.

Q: Describe your mother Julia.

A: Strong woman. Independent. Taught me how to be tough. Raised me and my brother with just herself really. She means the world to me, she’s like my superhero, and I love her.

Q: How did she teach you how to be tough?

A: Just seeing her go to work, do stuff she probably didn’t want to do, but she did it for us. She explained like it was never easy, for her to just keep being stronger in faith and keep showing us strength motivated me to be more and do more.

Q: Do you have a relationship with your biological father?

A: Yeah, we’re cool.

Q: How were you affected when your stepfather passed away in April?

A: I was obviously sad just to see my mom and my younger brother hurt like that. I just had to stay strong during that time for them. That was my guy, talked to him about a lot of things, he taught me a lot of things. So just not to have somebody to call and ask questions like about man stuff typically, was just different.

Q: You once lost your wallet and four pair of khaki pants?

A: (Laugh) In high school, I used to lose everything. I don’t know where it would go or what happened to it. As I got older, I had to mature and stop doing that.

Dexter Lawrence works out at the Giants practice on Jan. 6
Corey Sipkin

Q: Describe your four dogs.

A: American bullies.

Q: Your girlfriend Donna.

A: I think she’s helped me a lot off the field, making life simple and easy for me, and I respect her for it.

Q: You don’t go much to restaurants?

A: My girlfriend’s a chef.

Q: Why were you a Giants fan growing up?

A: Strahan, [Justin] Tuck, Fred [Robbins], Tiki [Barber], Eli [Manning], I watched a lot when I was younger or played them on the video game.

Q: Strahan’s “Our Way” hype video … what does “Our Way” mean?

A: We kind of are a grimy team. We get down and dirty. We don’t win the easy way, we win the hard way and we like to fight.

Q: What do you want people to say about Dexter Lawrence when your career is over?

A: I want to be legendary, like you said at the beginning. I want them to say that was a guy that gave his all, led great, was a great person, related well to people. People are gonna have their opinions, but in the long run they know that I’m true and genuine as a dude.

Q: What’s it like being a New York Giant?

A: I think in the long run everybody would love to be a Giant just because of the history, the pride you take putting on that jersey. I call it my Super suit every time I put it on. It’s a very prideful city, and it’s a lot of respect over here.