Deshaun Watson held a teleconference with the ACC media to preview this week’s Championship game. A transcript follows:
Q. Do you pay attention or have much time to pay attention to other quarterbacks in the league during the season much? Do you have any impressions of Jerod Evans from Virginia Tech, especially a guy who’s playing his first year in the league?
DESHAUN WATSON: I don’t have too much time, but if I catch a game here and there, I will watch it and just like to watch other guys and other people. So I watched a couple of games of V-Tech, and I’ve seen him. He’s a very great competitor, outstanding athlete, great leader, and great quarterback. He can make all the throws. He can make any run. He’s a hard worker, and regardless if he’s banged up or not, he’s going to go out there and be able to play for his team and do great things. For instance, I watched when he played Pitt and had a banged-up ankle and missed a couple snaps and came in and led the team. He’s a great competitor
Q. I know it was a couple years ago, but what was the first year in the league like for you as far as your mindset? Were you kind of looking to prove yourself, or were you more just focused on not making any big mistakes in games?
DESHAUN WATSON: You know, really I was just focused on being the best I can be. I wasn’t focused on anything like that. Just going out there, having fun, competing, and just having my team out to win.
Q. Coach Swinney said yesterday that he feels this has been an easier team to coach and the road has been a little easier this year just because you’re not playing 10 games in a row, you guys aren’t as low on gas at this time of the year as you may have been last year. You seem to be playing your best football right now at this juncture. Would you agree with that, that this year has been a little bit easier?
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, I think so. We have less distractions this year. You know, a lot of things haven’t been giving us any problems. Everyone has gone about their business with their schoolwork and not getting in trouble, with the community, and just been outstanding citizens and just been good on the football field, too. It’s been all-around good for one another.
Q. Do you feel like you guys are, for lack of a better term, peaking at the right time and there’s more competitive depth in practice on a day-to-day basis?
DESHAUN WATSON: Oh, yeah, I agree with that. Everyone is just out there competing and trying to get better. This is the perfect time for us to start peaking at our best and being our best.
Q. Talk about you guys played really well on Saturday against South Carolina and now you’re going to take on a team that you haven’t seen before in Virginia Tech. Or you probably saw them probably your freshman year. What have you seen on film from Virginia Tech’s defense that might give you a problem Saturday night?
DESHAUN WATSON: I wouldn’t say give us a problem because we always have answers, but it’s going to be a team that’s going to come out competitive, wellcoached, and ready to compete, and we’re going to be the same way. We’re going to come out competing and ready to go, too. We don’t take anyone lightly regardless of what their record is or who they are. We’re out there playing for us and pulling for us.
Q. Last year you went to New York for the Heisman and came up short. Talk about your play; do you think you might be able to go back up there and hopefully bring the first Heisman Trophy to Clemson?
DESHAUN WATSON: I guess so. You know, I’m just out there — all I can do is influence and focus on the way I’m performing and playing on the big stage and winning games. You know, I really don’t have much say-so in who wins it. That’s up to the voters. I finished up last year and thought I did enough to win it last year, but I guess I didn’t. At the end of the day it’s all in guys’ hands, to the voters, and who they feel like really deserves it.
Q. Is there an extra level of studying you have to put in this week for a team that you haven’t played in your career yet?
DESHAUN WATSON: No, I mean, just the same preparation, the same preparation that was done before previously, and when I get extra time, I take advantage of that. I’ve always done that regardless of who we were playing and what type of game it was. Just the same thing, you don’t have to overlook it; it’s a simple game. It’s just football. Just go out there and execute a game plan, and should be fine.
Q. I want to say maybe like a week or two ago you had commented something to the effect of last year people really weren’t paying that much attention to you until the end of the season, and so this year maybe the expectations throughout the year have been a little bit different. With all the attention that you got during the off-season and the way the expectations have been sort of heaped on you guys throughout this year, what have been the challenges that have come along with that for you in terms of handling all the outside stuff that has gone along with being a favorite coming into the year?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just focusing on what I can control and just controlling what I can control. Nothing else. Anything more than that. Keep everything simple, keep life simple, and just understand that people are going to have their own opinions, and everything is not going to be perfect. I’m not going to have a perfect season and don’t make any mistakes. I’m a human being. I’m an athlete, and regardless of what level of competition you’re in, if you’re in high school, college or the professional league, you’re going to make mistakes, and since I’ve got so much attention off the field and on the field throughout the off-season and throughout the season, and coming into the season, that’s all they really talked about was my name and all the success that I was going to do.
Q. In your own view, regardless of those outside expectations, how do you view your year this year compared to what your own expectations were for it in terms of your performance?
DESHAUN WATSON: It’s been successful. I’ve met my expectations. Of course I wish I would have had less turnovers. That’s the only part of the expectations that I didn’t meet. But at the end of the day, it’s been a successful year. I accomplished everything that I really wanted to accomplish, and winning games that I want to win and having the opportunity to win another ACC Championship and get to the playoffs again. Everything else will take care of itself. I feel like I’ve gotten better as a player, as a person, and as a man.
Q. Tell me what Ben Boulware is like as a leader.
DESHAUN WATSON: Just a great leader, just leads everyone. He’s very vocal, and whenever he has to say something, he’ll say it. Everyone just looks to him, and he’s a guy that he serves others and makes other people around him better.
Q. I know he’s kind of a feisty guy in practice and that he plays some practical jokes, including on you. What’s the most annoying thing about him to you?
DESHAUN WATSON: I don’t know. There’s nothing really annoying about him to me. He really don’t bother me. None of the guys on the team bother me. I really don’t know anything. If you really spend time with him, he’s really quiet, real laid back, loves to just have fun and go out and be free, be ready for football. He’s going to be like that on the football field. He’s a linebacker and gets overlooked sometimes because of his size, but he’s a heck of a player and in my eyes one of the best linebackers to step foot on the Clemson campus and play college football.