CHARLOTTE, N.C. — All in all, Deshaun Watson’s NFL debut was a successful one on Wednesday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
The former Clemson quarterback entered the game with 14:47 to play in the second quarter and stayed in through the fourth quarter, while leading his new team, the Houston Texans to 10 points in a 27-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers in the first preseason game for both teams.
Watson finished the game 15-of-25 for 179 yards, while rushing for 24 yards on three carries. He also scored his first career NFL touchdown on a 15-yard run in the third quarter.
“It was good. It was a start,” Watson said afterwards. “It is a process. I have to find ways of staying on track and getting better. I have to go back and correct the mistakes and the passes I missed, but it was a good start overall. I did what I needed to do and I felt good doing it.”
With his family watching in the Clemson Family Suite, Watson scored his first NFL touchdown with a 15-yard run up the middle which he capped with his signature hop into the end zone.
“That is always good,” Watson said about scoring his first NFL touchdown. “Regardless if it is a scrimmage, practice, preseason or regular season game, whatever it is. Getting in the end zone is hard to do so it was a good feeling.”
The drive covered 75 yards in 15 plays and took 7:50 off the clock.
Watson completed 6-of-8 passes for 52 yards on the scoring drive, which made the score 24-17 with 1:05 left in the third quarter. Watson was 2-for-2 on third down conversions and his touchdown run came on a third-and-eight play as well.
“It was fun,” former Clemson defensive tackle now Texan Carlos Watkins said. “It’s always fun to see him on the field. He does what he does. He is something special.”
Watson also led the Texans on a scoring drive in the first half that ended with a 25-yard Ka’ imi Fairbairn field goal with 1:42 left. The two-time Heisman Finalist was 3-for-7 for 40 yards on that drive, including passes of 18 and 16 yards.
The former Clemson quarterback was sacked a couple of times in the fourth quarter, and finished the game with three for 15 yards. However, he rushed three times for 24 yards, including his third-quarter touchdown run.
“He did what Deshaun does, he goes out there and makes plays,” said former Clemson wide receiver, now Texan Deandre Hopkins.
Watson was not the only former Tiger in action on Wednesday night. Watkins had three tackles for the Texans, while fellow defensive tackle D.J. Reader had one tackle.
Hopkins played just a couple of series and had two catches for 15 yards for Houston. Former Clemson All-American linebacker Ben Boulware played on punt and kick teams in the third quarter and played linebacker in the fourth quarter for the Panthers.
Boulware said afterward that it was different seeing his former teammates on the other side of the field.
“I was hoping I would get in there against Deshaun (Watson),” he said. “I knew when I got in that it might be his last series, but I was a little too late. I knew going in that I was going to be one of the later guys in, but it was cool. It was different, but it was cool.
“It was cool playing in different uniforms and getting to see (Watson). I haven’t talked to him in a long time, at least face to face. Just being able to catch up with him, give him a hug, just seeing him was a cool experience.”