Nine generals won the Trois Heisman this decade and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson was not one of them. Watson, however, drove a growing ACC program into a national championship superstore. For his efforts, he is Sporting News College Athlete of the Decade.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knew Deshaun Watson wasn’t a regular general when he arrived on campus. He observed that Watson put on 20 pounds and drove into the era of the newcomer and saw all the practical habits that would become legendary over the next three seasons.
Swinney, however, failed to believe what he saw in Watson’s first series on August 31, 2014. Watson drove to the 30 yard line, where he fired a pass under the seam for a TD pass to receiver Charone Peake Georgia defender who had not even searched for the ball.
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ou_6nweow8 (/ embed)
“On the road to Georgia, and checked on it,” Swinney told Sporting News. “That was a blitz control, and throwing a rope at Charone Peake. The rest is kind of a story from there. We knew from the jump that it was special.”
Watson never won a Heisman Trophy at Clemson, but put together a three-year stretch that included 10,163 yards and 90 TDs with 1,934 stairs and 26 more TDs. He finished 32-3 as a freshman and featured his legendary two-legged performance against Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Watson converted Clemson from contender to national champion while bridging a record difference between Tajh Boyd and Trevor Lawrence.
Swinney believes it started when Watson played through a torn ACL to lead Clemson to a 35-17 win over South Carolina on November 29, 2014.
“We had success,” Swinney said. “We’ve had a decade. We’re the second most winning team in the last nine years, but people I don’t think looked like a relevant national league program. It changes all that. The path has been opened. That’s what others have seen. coaches. It’s because elite players want to have the chance to win everything. ”
The following season, Watson led Clemson to the College Football Playoff football game, where he faced Alabama in a 13-1 team battle. The Crimson Tide won 45-40, but Watson drafted 478 total yards with four TD passes.
“Deshaun was amazing,” Swinney said. “They couldn’t stop him, and they knew it. That’s one of the reasons they kicked it. Another TD was on a kick return. We’re really controlling the game persistently and defensively. Watching us play and watch him leading into this scene, there was no doubt we would be back. I said, “It won’t be 34 years before we get another shot at it.”
The next season, Watson defeated Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in a 42-36 win over the Tigers on October 1, 2016, which helped create another shot at Alabama in the CAP championship game. When the Crimson Tide took a 31-28 lead with 2:07 left, Watson looked at his teammates and delivered a messaged Swinney he’ll never forget.
“He told his players, ‘Let’s go legendary,'” Swinney said. “That’s what happened.”
Watson hit Hunter Renfrow with a two-yard TD pass for a second. Clemson won 35-31, and that was the perfect limit on a college career.
“It was just meant to be,” Swinney said. “There were 2:01 left on the clock, and this guy takes us down the field against the best team he has and wins in this way for a second and never crouches. That’s just a great end for Deshaun. is exactly who she is. ”
Clemson’s success continues today. Kelly Bryant led the Tigers to the CAP the following season and freshman Trevor Lawrence led the Tigers to a 44-16 thrashing of the league.
Watson, now in his third season with the Houston Texans, continues to drive in the same way that led to Clemson’s great success. Watson visited the team this season, but it was going to surprise Swinney with the AFCA Good Works Coach of the Year award.
Swinney remains grateful for the relationship and has enjoyed seeing success translate to the next level.
“They think too much,” Swinney said. “This kid has won from ninth grade, from eighth grade. He has won his whole life. He has won, and the kids are not changing their stripes. He is who he is, and he went right to the Texans and changed everything for them. He did. ”
“It’s just a matter of time before winning a Super Bowl or two,” he said. “Because that will happen.”
With the numbers
– Watson was the first general in FBS history to run for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards at the same time. It had 4,104 passing yards and 1,105 wrecks in 2015. Kyler Murray, who had 4,361 passing yards and 1,001 rush yards last season, is the only other general to do so.
– Watson is one of five exclusive players to have accounted for more than 5,000 yards of offense in many seasons. Graham Harrell (2007-08), Case Keenum (2008-09, 2011), Patrick Mahomes (2015-16) and Lamar Jackson (2016-17) are the others.
– In the two league games against Alabama, Watson was 66 of 103 passing 825 yards, seven TDs and one interception. He added 41 carries for 116 yards and a TD. That’s 941 total yards offense, and added another punt for 38 yards.
What they say:
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on why he compares Deshaun Watson to Michael Jordan whenever the opportunity arises:
“It’s made up of him. It’s his faith. He’s confident that all the greats have. I always play for Michael Jordan. How many wins did he have? He was never afraid to fail. He wasn’t afraid to fail. He was going to do it. , and that makes Deshaun special. He just believes in himself that he can do whatever it takes. He goes back to how he was shaped as a young man and his perspective on life. That’s just how hard he prepares. He’s amazing. game a million times in his head before trends in these situations. He looks and smiles at it. The more uncomfortable it is. as comfortable as possible.
“This guy didn’t go to the state of Ohio or Alabama or Notre Dame. He went to a place that hadn’t won a national championship since 1981. He went to a place where people said he couldn’t do some things and he didn’t he could play with the big boys in the postseason and blah, blah, blah. He took us to two national championships and put up 1,000 yards in Alabama. It is incredible what this guy did. at Clemson and achieve anything. ”