DeMarcus Lawrence isn’t simply tough.

“He’s really tough,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli cooed almost lovingly, upping the ante when asked to describe the finest qualities of the second-round draft choice the team desperately needs to be its dominant pass rusher this season.

But aren’t all football players by definition “tough”?

Yes, Marinelli, the ex-Marine whose résumé includes Vietnam combat service, conceded on the final day of last month’s minicamp. But there are degrees. According to his calculus, “really tough” is the ultimate while “finesse” can almost sound like a dirty word.

Across the Cowboys’ Valley Ranch locker room, Lawrence, the 6-3, 250-pound rookie penciled in to immediately play right defensive end and, it’s hoped, wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, sat up taller, puffed his chest wider and smiled broader when apprised of Marinelli’s assessment.

To be sure, when training camp opens this week in Oxnard, Calif., Lawrence’s toughness and pass-rushing ability will be under a microscope, particularly in trench battles with Tyron Smith, who may be the NFL’s gold standard at offensive left tackle.

“Tough is the only way to grow up where I come from,” said Lawrence, who turned 22 in April, a month before the NFL draft. “I had to fight for everything from the time I was born.”

Where Lawrence comes from is rural South Carolina. The official biographies say he’s from Aiken, population 30,000, about 20 miles east of Augusta, Ga. Truth be told, he’s not from such a metropolis.

Lawrence is from New Ellenton, S.C., about 10 miles south of Aiken. It’s a town of almost 2,000 and, if you believe Lawrence as a tour guide, it should not be mistaken for idyllic, mythical Mayberry, up over the North Carolina border.