Every year, Clemson’s Athletic Communications Department gives the media a football supplement before the start of each season. It’s another 177 pages of stats, dates and notes for the media to pull from during the course of the year that the NCAA’s mandated 208-page media guide, which is also handed out to recruits, does not have.
Inside this supplement is a section titled “Heroes of the South Carolina Series.” This section documents some of the great Clemson players who made a major impact in a Tigers’ victory over the Gamecocks. Names like Buddy Gore, Ken Callicutt, Jerry Butler, Steve Fuller, Willie Underwood, Rodney Williams, Rod Gardner and Charlie Whitehurst are just some of the names mentioned in this section.
Also mentioned is current Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, who two years ago played with a torn ACL in his left knee, while leading Clemson to a 35-17 victory. In what is considered one of the more inspiring moments by a player in the history of the rivalry, Watson threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-19 passing, while also running for two more scores to snap the Tigers’ five-game losing streak in the series.
As inspiring and as great of a performance as it was, Watson is pretty humble about it. He does not think of himself as a hero of the game, instead, he has not even thought about it at all.
“I have not really had time to actually sit down and think about it. There was so much stuff going on,” Watson said on Monday. “It will be great to have my name a part of that. It is just one of those things you can look back in 10 years and be proud of.”
Watson can be proud of last year’s performance as well. The 2015 Heisman Trophy Finalist completed 20-of-27 passes for 279 yards, while rushing for three scores and throwing a 55-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain. One of his rushing touchdowns went for 30 yards.
He finished the game with 114 yards on 21 carries.
Now, as he heads into Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. kick against the Gamecocks with a 2-0 record, Watson is hoping to fulfill the promise he made to his high school coach when he was a senior at Gainesville High … he was never going to lose to the Gamecocks.
“That would be great. Forget the records. Forget the stats and all of that stuff. This is one of those games that you just want to win,” Watson said. “You want to have the bragging rights for 365 days and to be able to prove you were the better team. We just have to go out there on Saturday and do that.
“That’s one of the goals I had set coming to this university and I’m going to continue it.”
If the Clemson quarterback does what he has done against the Gamecocks the last several years then he will have a good chance at continuing it.
In his two games against South Carolina, Watson has completed 34-of-46 passes for 548 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 127 yards and five touchdowns on 26 carries.
“All games are pretty big, but this game has a little extra juice to it because it is the in-state rivalry and the state championship. There is just so much tension between the two teams and the two universities, it is always good to get to this week and be able to prepare and play in it.”
And no matter what happens on Saturday, Watson admitted the 2014 game, because of what it meant to Clemson at the time, and because he gutted it out and played on a torn ACL, will always be special to him. Not because it made him a hero, but because he helped Clemson win.
“It is very high. Like I said before, it is just one of the things I wanted to do,” he said. “Out of all the games, it is one of the games you do not want to lose. Being able to play my freshman year on the torn ACL and flip it and continue it last year. I’m going to try and make it to 3-0 this week.”