On Tuesday, I released my All-Decade Team at Clemson, and I received both love and hate, which is fine. I welcome both because that is what makes putting together these kinds of lists so fun.
With that said, I decided to keep things going by announcing my player of the decade and what better day to announce it than on National Signing Day. Well, what is left of National Signing Day.
It was on National Signing Day in 2013, as the media was waiting on Dabo Swinney to speak about the 2013 Class, when we heard a big-time celebration breakout in Swinney’s office. Deshaun Watson had just called Swinney and committed to sign with the Tigers’ 2014 class.
Watson stayed true to his year-long commitment and signed with Clemson in 2014. He later, to this point, became the greatest player Clemson has ever had wear the orange and white.
Some might argue Trevor Lawrence is the Tigers’ best ever. However, Lawrence’s story at Clemson has not been completely written just yet. Also, without Deshaun Watson, does Clemson landed Lawrence in 2018? By the time Lawrence committed to Clemson, Watson had already delivered the Tigers their first national championship in 35 years.
How good was Deshaun Watson? So good, Nick Saban did not want to play him.
Watson torched Alabama for a then record 478 total yards in the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Though Alabama won the game, Watson was in Saban’s head. Saban new his team would have a tough time beating the Tigers if they met Watson again in the 2017 CFP National Championship.
He was right.
Watson threw for a then title game record 420 yards and three touchdowns, while running for another one in Clemson’s dramatic 35-31 victory over the Crimson Tide. Watson led the Tigers on a last-minute drive which ended with his 2-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with one second left.
The play won Clemson its first national championship since 1981 and cemented Watson’s legacy as arguably the greatest player Clemson has ever had.
It is hard to argue what Deshaun Watson did in the 2010s, making him, in my opinion the Player of the Decade. Watson not only went 32-3 as the starting quarterback, but he guided the Tigers to their first undefeated regular season since 1981. He also lifted Clemson to its first two of five straight ACC Championships.
He took the Tigers to two CFPs and was the first ACC Player in history to be a 2-time finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Watson was also the 2015 ACC Player of the Year and a two-time winner of the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given to the nation’s best quarterback. He is also the only quarterback to win the Manning Award in back-to-back years.
During his three years at Clemson, Watson threw for 10,163 yards, second behind Tajh Boyd in school history. He holds the record for completion percentage, completing 67.4 percent of his 1,207 attempts. His 814 completions and 1,207 attempts rank third all-time in Clemson history behind Boyd and Charlie Whitehurst.
His 90 touchdown passes rank second behind Boyd all-time in Clemson history, as does his 116 total touchdowns responsibility. He finished his career tied for second in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, and just one behind Woody Dantzler’s record of 27. He finished his career also holding Clemson’s record for passing efficiency.
Also remember, Watson did all of this in just three seasons, as he chose to leave Clemson after his junior season to pursue his dream of being a quarterback in the NFL, which so far has worked out pretty well.
I’m not the only one who thought Watson was the best at Clemson in the 2010s. ESPN named him its National Player of the Decade.
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