On location with Deshaun Watson

by - Senior Writer -

GAINESVILLE, GA – The trip from Clemson to Gainesville, Ga., isn’t a long one, at most a few hours depending on the traffic on Interstate 85 and the one lane road leading into town.

The town sits north of Atlanta, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Georgia mountains, the shadows of distant peaks in view from almost every spot in town. Once you leave the interstate, a nice two lane road turns into a one lane road that leads into the heart of downtown, and a few turns take you to Gainesville High School, the home of the Gainesville Red Elephants, the Class AAAAA 2012 Georgia state champs in football.

It’s also the home of 2014 Clemson quarterback commit Deshaun Watson Deshaun Watson
6-3, 190
Gainesville, GA

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, arguably the best player in the state of Georgia and the crown jewel of what Clemson coaches hope will be a stellar recruiting class.

The school’s practice field sits on top of a tall hill behind the school. The field ringed by the school’s track, and the football team practiced Thursday while members of the track team got their work in on the track, but when we arrived for Gainesville’s penultimate practice of the spring, only a few students ringed the track and paid any attention to the whistles and shouts of the coaches as they put the team through its paces.

Standing out among the crowd at the middle of the field was Watson, noticeable not only by his height but by his demeanor, the unquestioned rising senior leader of a team that wants to reprise its championship run.

Watson is at home on the gridiron – calling plays on his own, checking out of plays, lining a group of young receivers up in the right spots and launching precision passes all over the field.

As the practice begins to gain steam, the track begins to fill up – worried dads still in work clothes, young mothers carrying babies and pushing strollers and former athletes back at the field to somehow reclaim a taste of former glory. They come in pairs and groups of threes, and soon the track is filled with adults and teenagers, all eyes drawn to No. 4 in the middle of the field.

Football is king in Gainesville, and Watson is the crown prince.

It wasn’t too long before the people with the video camera were noticed by some of the players, and a young receiver – still far too young to even shave – asks us if we are from Clemson. I tell him we are, and he said, “I am a Georgia fan, but I’ve told Deshaun he has to get me Clemson tickets because I want to see him play in college. I love playing with him, because he puts the ball where it is supposed to be every time. When he says something, we all listen.”

With that, he turns around and walks back to his teammates, and it’s easy to see what he means about Watson. The other quarterbacks take their turns with Watson, and they look like the hundreds of other high school quarterbacks I have covered through the years – they push balls through the air rather than throw them, and the difference between the best player in the state and the others is noticeable.

I watch him for ten or fifteen minutes, trying to get a feel for who he reminds me of: Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville? No, not the same body type. Tajh Boyd? The releases are similar, but that isn’t quite it, either. And then it hits me – Charlie Ward, the former Florida St. quarterback. His mannerisms on the field, the way he runs and the throwing motion are all eerily similar to Ward.

An interested observer at the practice is Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who talks with the coaches and watches every rep that Watson takes. I introduce myself, and we talk about Clemson and Auburn and Chad MorrisChad Morris
Offensive Coordinator / QBs
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[he tells me about meeting Morris back in 2006] and says that Clemson has one of if not the best coach in the country in Morris.

Later, Gainesville assistant coach Lyn Marsh comes over, and says that he knew Watson would be special during the youngster’s freshman season, when he was handed the reins of one of the state’s top programs.

“It was his first game, and we were playing against Buford, who had just won something like four state championships,” Marsh said. “He wasn’t fazed by the big game atmosphere at all. But he threw an interception early in the game, and he made a last second tackle so the guy wouldn’t score. He came over to the sidelines and just shrugged his shoulders and went on to the next play. He had that poise even then. Even though that team had older players, he was the leader. It’s just who he is.”

I asked Gainesville head coach Bruce Miller when he knew that he had something special on his hands in Watson, and he laughed.

“You know, he played middle linebacker back in the 7th grade,” Miller said. “The coaches felt like they had to get him on the field. I chuckle because it’s going to be bad without him. He is just a special kid. I’ve been coaching for 39 years, and I’ve had just about three or four like him. He is special, and he is a special person on top of being a special player.”

Miller said that Watson is a student of the game.

“He is like having a coach on the field. I pick at him and I tell the coaches that with him next year, we may not even call any plays,” Miller said. “We will just let him call them all on the field. Because he is such a student of the game and can check off with what he sees. He understands the game as well as being able to play it.”

He then said that Watson is as good of a person as he is a player.

“He is ‘yes sir and no sir’ all the time,” he said. “It would be easy for Deshaun to relax and say, ‘Well, I am committed to Clemson. I am looking forward to getting up there.’ But no, he wants to win another state championship. It’s just the day in and day out way he looks at things. He never feels special or acts special and I think that sets him apart.”

The practice ends and the crowd begins to thin, and even though football is king and Watson is the crown prince, he acts like anything but, despite the offers from the big-time programs and the attention of college football coaches everywhere.

“I am blessed. Blessed to be in this position, blessed to have the coaches I do and blessed to be able to go to Clemson,” Watson says. “It has been kind of laid back really. They understand my role and they tell me that if anything changes to just give them a call. My coaches help me out and let me know who all is going to be here.”

Watson said he is 100 percent committed to Clemson, and despite being flattered by all of the other offers, he knows where his next home will be, and it isn’t surprising that his new home will closely resemble his current home – a tight knit, smaller community that loves its football.

“It [Clemson] is just right up the street,” Watson said. “I feel at home there and they take care of me and my family. I get to talk to the coaches and their families and just hang out and be myself. I talked to my family about it, and I don’t want to take any more visits. I just want to get to Clemson next January and compete for a starting job.”

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Subject (Replies: 27) Author
Front Page Story: On location with Deshaun Watson
TigerNet News
Loved this interview
Agreed. But maybe a bigger concern...
He did say that he has had his family involved
From what I've read, his mom loves clemson and was
His parents love Clemson***
At the 2:00 minute point....
You're reaching. Give the kid a break.***
a lot of things can change in 11 months
11 months? He enrolls in January.... Just 8 months away.***
Re: 11 months? He enrolls in January.... Just 8 months away.***
Top 20 to Top 20?***
Re: Top 20 to Top 20?***
So you think we are going to lose Dabo, CM, and BV….
I can assure you, I'm not going anywhere...***
CM Shack
Re: So you think we are going to lose Dabo, CM, and BV….
Re: So you think we are going to lose Dabo, CM, and BV….
Re: a lot of things can change in 11 months
that was before...keep up...he said the latter more recently***
Re: At the 2:00 minute point....
thumbs up***
We want YOU Deshaun!***
Hopefully he can get a couple receivers to....
Prime T. Tiger
Re: Front Page Story: On location with Deshaun Watson
Great piece of writing, Mr. Hood***
Watson is starting to look more muscular***
Re: Watson is starting to look more muscular***
Re: Watson is starting to look more muscular***

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