After being considered one of the best the year before, the following season isn’t always as easy to navigate through.
If you don’t believe me, ask Deshaun Watson. By the end of the 2015 football season, he was the most talked about player in the game. People, especially the national media, were amazed by the precision in which he carved up the Alabama defense in the national championship game.
Watson was on such a tear by seasons end, he was the easy choice to win everyone’s Heisman ballot as well as All-American, ACC Player of the Year, you name it in 2016.
However, expectations were so high for Watson you wondered if he could ever live up to them all.
Early on, he did not.
When Watson and the Clemson offense struggled to start the 2016 season, the criticism came roaring in, again, mostly from the national media. It was a hard pill for Watson to swallow. After getting all of the pats on the back before the season started, he now had to deal with all the harsh criticism that comes when high expectations are not being met.
It wasn’t as if Watson was having a bad season, either. Clemson never slipped out of the top five the entire season and Watson’s numbers were the same or better than the previous year in a lot of ways.
However, this is the pressure that comes with success. Watson had to learn how to manage it and not allow it become a distraction to him and his team. He did okay.
By Week 11 of the season, following a loss to Pittsburgh, the last in his college career, Watson guided the Tigers on a five-game winning streak to close the season, which included wins over Ohio State and Alabama in the College Football Playoff and the program’s first national championship in 35 years.
Again, Watson diced up an Alabama defense to close the year, throwing for a record 420 yards and three touchdowns in the CFP Championship Game. He won the Davey O’Brien and Manning Awards for a second straight year and at seasons end, ESPN ranked him as the best player in college football.
Clemson baseball standout Seth Beer watched all of this unfold from afar. Like Watson, he too is having almost unreachable expectations placed on his shoulders.
Last year, Beer, then a true freshman, was the talk of college baseball. He became one of the best hitters in the game and by seasons end he became the first freshman in history to win ACC Player of the Year honors as well as the Dick Howser Award as the nation’s best player.
Beer’s success carried over to this team as well as the Tigers won the program its first ACC Championship in 10 years as well as earning a No. 7 national seed.
Now, everyone is expecting Beer to match last season or be even better this year. However, the odds of him repeating such a dominant season are slim. By the end of last season, opponents began to pitch away from the slugger, while also shifting their defense.
Beer adjusted by drawing walks, a lot of them. He became the most walked player in the game. Though he was still getting on base and helping his team win, it was a frustrating end to the season.
Now a sophomore, Beer heads into this season knowing he is going to see a lot of the same things. He is going to have to stay patient. He is going to have to listen to some of the same criticism Watson did when he is not putting up the numbers everyone will expect him to have.
But if he paid attention to Watson, he’ll know how to get through it. He’ll know that nothing anyone says or thinks outside of the Clemson clubhouse really matters at all. The best thing for him to do is just play ball and control the things that only he can control.
If he does those things, then by the end of the year, and I don’t know if he will necessarily be hoisting the national championship trophy like Watson did, but maybe another ACC or regional trophy is in the cards. And there is nothing wrong with any of that.
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