The first time Gene Chizik saw Deshaun Watson in person, he thought to himself that Clemson quarterback is a wiry guy.
It was not the best first impression for a football player to make, but the former North Carolina defensive coordinator and Auburn head coach soon understood why Watson was one of the best players in the country.
Chizik’s UNC defense, of course, faced Watson in the 2015 ACC Championship Game, a game the Tigers won 45-37 in Charlotte. Watson threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns, while running 24 more times for another 131 yards and two more touchdowns in earning offensive MVP honors.
Chizik was impressed, and he knows a thing or two about dominate quarterbacks after coaching Heisman Trophy and national championship quarterback Cam Newton at Auburn in 2010. Of course Newton has gone on to great success in the NFL as well as he took home NFL Player of the Year honors in 2015.
“When we played him, I was watching him in pregame warmups and I saw this wiry guy – 6-2 or 6-3, not going to physically wow you like a Cam Newton,” said Chizik to Fox Sports’ Steward Mandel on Wednesday. “But when the ball kicked off, he was fierce competitor, tough as boots, wiry — I thought he made some great tight window throws.”
Like Newton, Chizik believes Watson will have success in the NFL and he reminds him a lot of another quarterback who has a chance to be a big star in the NFL.
“He is going to make somebody a fantastic NFL quarterback,” Chizik said of the Clemson star. “Dak Prescott is kind of what I see Deshaun being, a guy that comes in, he’s a football guy, he picks it up well and becomes successful early in his career.”
After leading Clemson to the national championship last month, Watson is considered by many to be a top 10 pick and one of the first two quarterbacks taken off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft. Some experts even have Watson going in the top three overall picks.
In 2016, Watson completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also ran for 626 yards and nine more scores. He was the winner of the Davey O’Brien and Manning Awards and was named by ESPN after the national championship game as the top player in college football.
Watson threw a two-yard touchdown pass with one second to play in the national title game to beat previously unbeaten Alabama, who had won 26 straight games. In the championship game, Watson, the offensive MVP, threw for a championship game record 420 yards on 36-of-56 passes and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also ran for 43 more yards and scored a touchdown.
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