When Deshaun Watson ran a bootleg to his right and hit RaShaun Allen for a 6-yard gain in Wednesday’s preseason game between Houston and Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., a loud roar came from behind the new Allen Reeves Football Complex in Clemson.
It was the first play of the rookie quarterback’s NFL career and, to no one’s surprise, he executed it perfectly.
“You could hear it,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “The whole team was cheering for him, talking and all of that. That was special. As a coach, that was very rewarding (to watch).”
Watson was one of six former Tigers playing in the preseason opener for both NFL teams. Houston has five former Clemson players on its current roster, while the Panthers have one. Five of the six got the opportunity to play, while Houston safety Marcus Gilchrist sat the game out.
Besides Watson, former Tigers Deandre Hopkins, D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins played for the Texans in Carolina’s 27-17 win, while former linebacker Ben Boulware got into the mix late in the game for the Panthers.
Because so many Tigers were playing in the game, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney hosted a viewing party for his team out on the practice fields behind the Reeves Football Complex.
“We had a great time,” Swinney said. “We are always trying to find ways to spend good quality time together. We got a lot of time this time of year and this is a long camp so school starts a week later than it has in the past, at least the last two years, so we have a long way to go and we are already a little over a week into camp.
“We just had some fun and it was great. We got off the field and we had a big tailgate party.”
Clemson brought out one of its big blow-up televisions and set it up like it was driven-in movie theater, complete with a good old fashion backyard cookout with dips and chips and even some corndogs which Swinney requested.
“It was a good time and the guys enjoyed it,” Swinney said. “Everybody, our families, we don’t get to see them a lot this time of the year with camp, but all of our families were here and we able to just sit down and hang out with the players and watch some ball.
“Those guys take a lot of pride in watching their teammates. They were over there messing with Carlos amongst themselves and guys were clapping for Deshaun and everybody is excited to see Ben so it was a lot of fun for those guys.”
What made it even more fun was the way Watson played. The former Clemson quarterback threw for 179 yards on 15-of-25 passing with no turnovers, while running for a 15-yard touchdown for the Texans in the third quarter.
“I can remember when Deshaun was a freshman and sophomore in high school,” Scott said. “I can remember him going out in his first start in high school and the stage not being too big for him. I can remember him being very fluent and just being able to execute.
“I can remember him as a true freshman at Georgia, coming off the bench on the very first drive and going and leading us on a touchdown drive. So it was really neat to see that final phase with his debut on an NFL field … That was the biggest thing I took away from it. He looked very natural. It did not look like the moment was too big for him. He is only going to get better.”
Watson got better in his first game. On his second pass, he overthrew a wide open receiver on a seam-route that could have gone for a big play or even a touchdown. However, he settled down after that and had just one more overthrow on the night, and that too was due to him being just a little too excited.
“He looked like he’s been there for about five years,” Swinney said. “That’s just Deshaun. Poised, you can tell he’s put the work in. No big shocker there. Poised, confident, knew where to go with the ball. Had several dropped balls and a fumble that cost him a couple of opportunities, but just very confident and very much in command. He just has that ability to extend plays. He’s faster than you think, but he’s just a very smart football player … Looked like he belonged.”
–Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
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