Swinney on Deshaun Watson start: "He's just a great competitor"

by - Staff Writer -
Swinney texted Deshaun Watson Sunday night after his 5 TD performance in a 42-34 loss to Kansas City. (USA TODAY Sports-Jeremy Brevard)

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney famously proclaimed in January that teams passing on selecting Deshaun Watson in the NFL draft would be like passing on Michael Jordan.

"I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I’m just an old, funky college coach," Swinney said with a smile while surrounded by scouts at the Senior Bowl, "but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot.”

Eleven picks went off the board before Watson was selected by the Houston Texans back in April, and Watson's been off to quite the start through five games. Swinney was asked to revisit that projection on his radio call-in show Monday.

"That's a pretty easy prediction from my vantage point. Not that he's Michael Jordan," Swinney said, "but just the qualities...the greatness that he displays. The things that people don't see. I'm not just talking about when you turn on the tape.

"It was really pretty laughable some of the comments from the so-called draft experts and that type of stuff. It just amazed me that people just change their rhetoric to fit whatever's going on at the time."

Through four starts and one half of action, Watson ranks second only to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers in passing touchdowns with 12, leading the league in total QBR (85.1).

"He's an awesome player. He isn't doing anything that he hasn't always done," Swinney said. "You don't go into that league and get lucky. Especially after four (starts). He's just a special person. He's brilliant. He's incredibly committed. In fact, I texted him last night, I'm so proud of him. I saw the end of the game and that's all you need to know about the guy. The game is over and he's fighting to the last second.

"That's just how he's wired. You know what? That's how Michael Jordan's wired. That's how Tom Brady's wired. That's how Joe Montana and Jerry Rice were wired. All those elite, elite players have that gene. He's just a great competitor. When you have great talent plus great intelligence and great work ethic and instincts and integrity, that will make you a superstar. He makes everyone around him better. He makes the coaches better. He makes everybody. He has that 'it' factor."

Those qualities are something Swinney recognized early with the Gainesville, Georgia product.

"I've been around it," Swinney said. "I've known him since the ninth grade. I'm so proud of him and happy for him. You always say that God never says 'Oops.' He's right where he's supposed to be. He's in a good city and a good place.

"I know they've got some struggles now on defense with some injuries, but he's just going to continue to get better. What you see now isn't close to what he will be."

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