As a child, Deshaun Watson knew where he wanted to go to school.
Born during the Steve Spurrier era at Florida, Watson watched the program reach unprecedented heights, and he grew up wanting to be a Gator. By the time he was 14, Watson had witnessed Urban Meyer lead Florida to its second and third national championships. He admired Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, the duo that keyed those title runs, and imagined himself calling signals at the school one day.
“Growing up, Florida was my dream school,” Watson said this week. “I was a huge Urban Meyer fan. I loved Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, all those guys, and I just wanted to go there.”
Things changed in 2010, though, Watson’s first year of high school. That’s when Watson began to gain national recognition in recruiting after becoming the starting quarterback at Gainesville (Ga.) High as a freshman and passing for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns.
It’s also when Watson began relying on his faith to help him decide amongst a long list of scholarship offers and make the right decision for him.
“I found Christ when I was in ninth grade, and I just started praying on my decision,” Watson said.
On National Signing Day in February 2012, Watson made up his mind. A sophomore at the time, Watson called Dabo Swinney to inform him that he wanted to play quarterback at Clemson.
“He said coach, I’m ready to be your quarterback,” Swinney recalled this week. “I actually tried to talk him out of it. I said listen, Deshaun, you’re just in the 10th grade. Why don’t we let this just kind of marinate a little while.
“I knew what we were going to be dealing with and all the other schools, and I literally tried to talk him out of it. But he said no, coach, this is what I want to do.”
When Watson committed to Clemson during the phone call, he had no doubts that Clemson was the school for him, and he didn’t want to prolong the decision.
“I just felt like that day I committed to Clemson, God was talking to me, and I just felt like the time was perfect and that’s what I wanted to do,” Watson said.
Watson never looked back after that, and he didn’t take another official visit before signing with Clemson two years later.
“That’s the epitome of Deshaun Watson,” Swinney said. “He knew what he wanted to do, early. He didn’t take another official visit anywhere, stayed true to his word, and he came in, went to work, and the rest is history.”
Three years later, Watson is headed to the NFL having compiled a 32-3 career record, a national championship and two ACC Championships. The two-time Heisman finalist finished first in school history in completion percentage, second in passing yards, second in passing touchdowns and third in completions.
Needless to say, Watson’s faith was rewarded.
“I stuck through it, and it was the best decision of my life,” Watson said. “I thank all the people that were a part of it and gave me the opportunity.”
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