Watson handles mother's illness with maturity and poise

by - Senior Writer -
Deshaun Watson with his mother Deann. (Courtesy of Watson)

Early in 2012, Deshaun Watson Deshaun Watson
6-3, 190
Gainesville, GA

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felt like he had the world at his feet. The 2014 Clemson quarterback commitment out of Gainesville, Ga., was enjoying the life of a high school teenager with the added bonus of having college recruiters clamoring for his attention.

He was the quarterback on the school football team, played on the basketball team and juggled homework and calls from college recruiters, all while enjoying a strong family support network that kept him grounded.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it all changed.

Watson was enjoying his sophomore basketball season and things were rolling right along when his mother, Deann, sat Deshaun down to deliver the news that she had cancer. Specifically, cancer of the tongue, and he knew right then that as the man of the house – he has three younger siblings – that the weight of the world was on his young shoulders.

“I actually found out during basketball season. She had the cancer before that, but she didn’t want to tell me because she wanted me to focus on school,” Watson told TigerNet last week. “But then she told me, and it just kind of hit me, all at once. I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people. But the big thing was, I wanted to know if it was a death cancer. That’s what scared me. She told me it wasn’t, and that was a big weight off my shoulders. She told me to stay strong, and she told me that she was going to get better soon. “

The news of the cancer was followed by a trip to Emory Hospital in Atlanta, where she would undergo a 12-hour surgery and myriad treatments in an effort to get better. A further downside was that Deanna had to be away from her children for six months.

“She went through a 12-hour surgery at Emory in Atlanta, and then she went through chemo and radiation and all of the cancer stuff,” Watson said. “Right now, she is cancer free. But they took out her whole tongue, and used parts of her body to rebuild her new tongue. So she is back healthy again and trying to get better.”

In the meantime, Deshaun dealt with his high-profile recruitment and tried his best to stay away from the negative message boards and comments of fans, instead concentrating on honing his skill and keeping in contact with his mother.

The hardest part came last football season, when Deann had to miss his football games as she recovered in Atlanta. He looked up in the stands where his mother usually sat, only to see an empty space. But she was never far from his thoughts.

“She told me to stay strong,” he said. “She was in the hospital for six months in Atlanta, and every day during football season she would text me she would be listening on the radio. She told me to not worry about her - that she was doing fine. She told me to just go out and relax and have fun. I know that I am one blessed young man and everything I do, I do for her. It was very hard. A lot of things were going through my mind. You just have to have great support around you. My entire community, they found out about it and they supported me.”

Lyn Marsh, who coaches the slot receivers at Gainesville, said that Deshaun benefitted from having a strong support network in the tight-knit community. He also had a certain maturity and poise that many teenagers lack.

“The biggest part of that was his mom was pushing him in the right direction. She told him that God would take care of it, and that Deshaun just had to do what he had to do,” Marsh said. “Deshaun has always been a very mature young man for his age. He handled it well, and he had good support from his family and it has always been a family deal. But he handled it better than most kids his age would have.”

Watson said his older brother and an aunt pitched in to help.

“I have an older brother who is 22, and he took care of us,” he said. “My aunt came down. I got support from coaches, and they told me not to worry, that God would take care of everything. That is what God did.”

He then said that he treats each day like it’s a miracle, and cherishes every moment he has with his mother.

“Words can’t even explain how it feels to see her well, and walking again. Now she can come to my games. She is here supporting us and keeping us healthy and living right.”

Watson said that every time he takes to the practice field, he does so with the mindset that maybe one day he can take care of his mother like he wants to.

“What she is going through right now drives me to have the opportunity to do that,” he said. “But I know I have to stay humble, get my skill work in and keep improving on the gridiron. If I can do that, I know it will work out and I will have the opportunity to do that. That is what I want to do. She means everything to me.”

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