Saturday, September 12th, 2020

Elementary Deshaun

Neil Reynolds

Elementary Deshaun

Neil Reynolds NFL

This article originally appeared in Issue XLIX of Gridiron magazine, back in 2019 – for individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE



On a cold, blustery morning in mid-March, while most people were enjoying a lie-in and contemplating their Sunday roast, a group of quarterbacks travelled from around the United Kingdom and Europe to gather on an American football field in Leicester.

The passers – of varying skill levels – were going through their warm-ups, attempting to keep the body temperature up by jogging on the spot and blowing on their hands between throws. There was a sense of excitement in the air because a very special guest was en route to the home of the Leicester Falcons American football team. A black mini-van pulls into the carpark with tinted windows adding to the sense of anticipation. Those on the field stop throwing and look towards the now-parked vehicle. The door slides open and out hops one of the brightest young stars in the NFL today.

Over the course of the next three hours, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson — along with his renowned personal quarterback coach, Quincy Avery – worked with the European passers, breaking down throwing motions and providing extensive coaching on footwork and movement. While many NFL players head home or to the beach when the season ends, Watson went on a global tour, teaching the sport in England, Austria, Italy, Egypt and China.

Upon his return to Houston, I visited the star passer during training camp. What becomes evident whenever you are around Watson and a football field is that you cannot take your eyes off him. He has that genuine star power that draws you in — and rightly so. When it comes to dynamic and exciting players, there are very few who sit above the Texans’ third-year star.
 


“The NFL’s passer-rating system has always been convoluted and complicated but this is all you need to know – the 158.3 score registered by Watson was perfection.”


 
Watson has been compared to the great Michael Jordan in terms of the impact he can have on his sport, praise that would weigh heavily on some young shoulders. But he embraces that kind of talk and reminded us of his potent power in a 53-32 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5. In what might have been the finest outing of his career to date, Watson dazzled from start to finish as he hit on 28 of 33 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns. The NFL’s passer-rating system has always been convoluted and complicated but this is all you need to know – the 158.3 score registered by Watson was perfection.

Given his good work in the offseason, that display was cheered around the world. One gets the feeling that a lot more lies ahead in what is shaping up to be a very bright future.

Tell us about your spring. You travelled the world running quarterback camps; how enjoyable was that?

Any chance I get to be able to spread the game, particularly to young kids, is great. It gives kids dreams that they will be able to do what I am doing, and I took full advantage of it. I had the opportunity to be able to go over to a few countries, and I met a lot of new friends. I am trying to keep in touch with all of the programmes that I ran into.

What is the one piece of advice you would give young quarterbacks?

To never let anyone tell you that you can’t fulfill any dream that you want to. I had a lot of people tell me that when I was younger but, at the same time, my mum always disagreed with that. I listened to her, fulfilled my dreams and kept working. The other thing is never get too comfortable and always stay humble. If you do that, you can fulfill those dreams.

So it’s all a product of your own experiences?

I had lots of people help me along the way: coaching staffs and my family. They inspired me. I also remember being able to go and ‘ball with the Atlanta Falcons when I was a kid and Matt Ryan was a guy who encouraged me and told me that I could fulfill my dreams. I want to use this platform the right way.
 


“I want people, after I’ve retired, to talk about my career the same way they do Michael Jordan in basketball. I use it in a motivational way. I’m trying to be a master of my craft.”


 
How does it feel to be playing a game in London?

It’s awesome. I’m really excited about it, getting out there to see the UK fans and playing internationally. It’s a big game too. A division game against a great team — and in their ‘homeland’ too. It’s gonna be interesting.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt in the NFL so far?

That everything’s a test. Everyone is good. In college, I went to one of the best teams in the country [Clemson] and, each week, we would go out and dominate. In the NFL, you know that you’ll have to work for all four quarters and each play is important.

I’ve talked to NFL defenders about you and they talk about you being ‘slippery’. Is that something that’s natural or practiced?

I definitely practice it. I do skill drills and the ladder, bits like that. I try to stay as quick as possible, because you need to at this level. There are a lot of fast guys at every position. But I have always been that way too, from high school to college; it’s a skill that I have been blessed with.

Your college coach, Dabo Swinney, famously said before the draft that you were ‘Michael Jordan’, and others have echoed that around the league. Do you try to tune that out?

Not really; I kind of enjoy it. I use it to give me confidence. And as a way of trying to be the best that I can be. I want people, after I’ve retired, to talk about my career the same way they do Michael Jordan in basketball. I use it in a motivational way. I’m trying to be a master of my craft.
 


“The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, and where we want to be. But we have a long way to go.”


 
You got your first taste of playoff football last season. What was that like?

It was very good. We were able to flip the script and get into the playoffs as AFC South champions. It was success. But we have to continue to get better and keep driving forward. The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, and where we want to be. But we have a long way to go.

So it’s about continuing to raise the bar?

For sure. The standard is always at the top.

What are you like after you’ve played a good or bad game?

It depends. I don’t really have a routine after a bad game, because you don’t want to have that happen. I guess I always try to take a shower and relax my body, get a massage, then spend time with my family and friends. But I’m hard on myself.



This article originally appeared in Issue XLIX of Gridiron magazine, back in 2019 – for individual editions or subscriptions, click HERE

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