Master at Work


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Watson's grace will be on display in Death Valley just seven more times
Watson's grace will be on display in Death Valley just seven more times

One of my friends walked into one of Rome’s many churches on a recent visit, but the frescoes made famous by artists such as Michelangelo were hidden behind a large tarp.

A simple sign in the foyer of the church said it all: Master at Work.

The sign was intriguing, but he was told that a master restorer was at work. A master restorer is someone who can go into old paintings and frescoes and bring them back to life without destroying the integrity of the art. Most of these restorers are dynamic artists in their own right, but they also choose to keep the brush strokes of the original masters in top form.

That led my heat-fatigued brain to ponder the possibilities of true masters at work. And there are very few. For every Mikhail Baryshnikov, whose poetry and grace speaks of a bygone age, there are millions that never reach the pinnacle of their profession. Indeed, in this world, there are very few like Niccolo Paganini, Bach, Van Gogh, Shakespeare, or even the aforementioned Michelangelo.

They are true masters whose majesty takes our breath away.

There are also the masters of sport – Jim Brown, Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana. Those are the people who walk down the street and other people point and say, “There goes the best that ever lived.”

When Joe DiMaggio played in Yankee Stadium, someone should have hung a sign outside that said: Master at Work.

Perhaps someone should hang a similar sign outside of Death Valley this season.

No, I am not saying Deshaun Watson is the best that’s ever lived. I’m not saying he’s the best college football player in history or will even be the best in college football this season (it will be close.) That’s too much pressure to put on one young man. He isn’t infallible. He makes mistakes, on and off the football field. He can do better at protecting the football. He can protect his body a little more.

But this kid, he’s pretty darn good. And I think he’s closing in on maybe being the best quarterback in Clemson history. There is an argument to be made for best player overall. He won’t have the numbers of Tajh Boyd (not enough games), might not win a national title like Homer Jordan, and won't threaten other records because he will have just two full seasons of actual playing time.

When you watch him this season, however, understand you’re watching one of the best to ever suit up for the Tigers. I often thought I would never see another C.J. Spiller, but Sammy Watkins came along. I thought Sammy was it, but along comes Deshaun. You have seven more home games to watch the master at work, and it won’t be hidden by a canvas. His canvas is the football field, and his brush strokes will be there for all the nation to see.

We saw a glimpse of the future artist against Georgia two years ago when he connected with Charone Peake for the first touchdown of his career. A few weeks later, a wide receiver told me a story about a play in the Florida St. game that illustrated someone different was at the helm.

“It was a third down play, and when I turned around I saw Deshaun had been flushed from the pocket and had taken off running,” the wide receiver said. “So I turned around to block. But I’m on the Florida St. sideline, and I hear them yelling ‘pass!!’ and I swivel my head around in time to catch a bullet. I went back to the huddle thinking, who is this cat?”

This cat is someone you don’t want to miss. The master piece he started last season isn’t finished. There are brush strokes left to be painted. What the finished product will be nobody knows.

Does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the true masters of the art world? Of course not. But right now, at this place and time, he is a master at work. What we see now – this type of greatness blossoming and blooming before our very eyes – might never be seen again. He is ready to take his place among the game’s greats, and we get the privilege of seeing it up close.

Don’t walk away when you see the sign that says Master at Work. Pull back the canvas, and watch a thing of beauty unfold before your eyes. Missing a single home game because of the weather means you miss another chance at greatness.

Pull up a seat and stay a while, and watch a true artist at work.


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