Deshaun Watson: The Epitome of Student-Athlete
When you hear the name Deshaun Watson, what comes to mind? For the average college football fan it may be competitor, two-time Heisman finalist, or two-time Davey O’Brien award winner. For Clemson fans, much more comes to mind. A young man who embodies the traits every parent wants their child to have and a football player who is the epitome of the word student-athlete.
Long before he donned the No. 4 and ran down the Hill on Saturdays in Death Valley, I met the Clemson legend. It was Clemson’s spring game in 2014 when my best friend invited me to attend. We were two rows from the field in the West Zone, great seats for any sports contest. When it comes to recruiting, the spring game is a primary date for many recruits to come on official or unofficial visits.
As the game drew to a close, my friend requested that we go try to find a certain recruit by the name of Deshaun Watson. We spotted him a couple of rows up on the opposite side of the West Zone. He gladly accepted the request for a picture. Looking through the iPhone, taking the picture of Deshaun and my best friend, I saw Deshaun Watson the young man, not Deshaun Watson, the football player. As a freshman in high school, I had no idea of the impact this young man would make as a Tiger.
Watson Commits to Clemson
On February 1st, 2012, the No. 16 overall recruit and No. 1 dual threat quarterback out of Gainesville, Georgia committed to Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers. In high school, Watson had worn No. 4 but it had been retired at Clemson following the graduation of Steve Fuller in 1979. The No. 4 was brought out of retirement for Watson but now features a patch commemorating the legacy of Steve Fuller.
Watson came to Tiger Town as the backup to the senior quarterback, Cole Stoudt. On September 21st however, Watson was named the starting quarterback for the Tigers. He made his first career start on September 27th, 2014 against North Carolina. Watson led the Tigers to a 50-35 victory behind his record setting six touchdowns passes and 435 yards passing.
Just two weeks later, Watson broke a bone in his hand against the Louisville Cardinals and would go on to miss the next three games. He returned to face Georgia Tech, where he would go on to strain his LCL and miss the majority of the game. The following week, Watson tweaked his knee in practice. It was later revealed that he had torn his ACL. Despite this, Watson played two weeks later against in-state rival South Carolina, leading Clemson to a 35-17 victory.
The sophomore campaign was a historic one for both Watson himself and the Clemson Tigers. He led the Tigers to a 12-0 regular season title and a victory in the ACC Championship game against North Carolina. Watson became the first Clemson player to become a Heisman finalist and was named the ACC Player of the Year.
Clemson held the No. 1 ranking in the polls and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. Watson and the Tigers defeated Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners 37-17 in the Orange Bowl, clinching a spot in the National Championship game. The Clemson Tigers faced the Alabama Crimson Tide in an effort to win their first national title since 1981. They fell to the Tide, but Watson set the expectations for the 2016-2017 season at an all-time high. He threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns while setting the record for most total yards in the National Championship game at 478. In the 2016 season, Watson became the only player in college football history to pass for over 4,000 yards and rush for over 1,000.
Watson’s Junior Season
Entering the 2016-2017 season, Watson and the Clemson Tigers were the No. 2 ranked team in the nation. He led them to an 11-1 regular season with marquee victories over Auburn, Louisville, and South Carolina. For the first time since 1987-1988, Clemson won back-to-back ACC titles, defeating Virginia Tech 42-35. Watson was named Second Team All-ACC and was once again a Heisman finalist. He’s currently thrown for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns. He’s tied for fifth among FBS quarterbacks in touchdowns and seventh in passing yards. Following their win against Virginia Tech, Clemson was given the No. 2 spot in the College Football Playoff ranking and will take on the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes in Glendale, Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.
Deshaun Watson’s Career Stats
In three seasons with the Tigers, he’s thrown for 9,489 yards and 86 touchdowns. On the ground, he’s rushed for 1,829 yards and 23 touchdowns. Watson is currently second on Clemson’s total offensive yards in a career with 11,318 and first in yards in a single season with 5,209. Touchdowns for Watson seemingly come easily to him. He’s second on the all-time touchdowns list with 106, only trailing Clemson legend Tajh Boyd (133). As a for single season touchdown record, he’s first with 47. Throughout his tenure at Clemson, he’s 26-2 as a starter with the two losses coming against Alabama and Pittsburgh. Although Watson’s name will appear in the Clemson’s record book for decades to come, it’s not the only thing he’ll be remembered for.
As impressive as Watson’s stats are on the field, his accomplishments and demeanor off are just as if not even more impressive. Watson and his teammates were involved in a Habit for Humanity project at the beginning of the 2016 season. For Deshaun, this wasn’t his first project with Habitat for Humanity. He often volunteers at the Habitat for Humanity in Anderson, SC when he can. He lived in a Habitat home growing up and says he wants to help out of the kindness of his heart, not for the popularity. When describing quarterback Deshaun Watson, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said it best. “I tell people all the time, this is a great human being that just happens to be a great quarterback.”
Deshaun Watson resembles the true meaning of student-athlete. Coming off of the rigorous and ever so demanding college football season, Watson took 19 credit hours in the spring of 2016. Following the spring semester, it’s summer vacation for many students and athletes. For Deshaun Watson, it was all business. Watson took 17 credit hours over the summer with the intent to graduate in December of 2016, just 2½ years after enrolling at Clemson. In the 2016 fall semester, Watson took just five credits, a reward for his hard work and effort through the spring and summer semesters.
Watson graduated from Clemson in December, but his work as a Tiger is far from over. He hopes to bring Clemson its first national title since 1981 and add to his already cemented legacy. Watson may not run down the Hill again and touch Howard’s Rock, throw another pass in Death Valley, or don the No. 4 after this season, but he will always be a Tiger. Deshaun Watson: competitor, two-time Heisman finalist, two-time Davey O’Brien Award winner, student-athlete, and Clemson graduate.