On November 29, 2014, Deshaun Watson helped his Clemson Tigers break a five-game losing streak to the University of South Carolina. As a true freshman, Watson led Clemson to its first win against the Gamecocks since 2008, defeating the intrastate rival 35-17.
Watson had a stellar four-touchdown performance, completing 14-of-19 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also rushed for two more touchdowns.
And, he did it all while playing with a torn ACL.
"I told Coach (Dabo) Swinney – first off, I made a promise to him that as long as I'm the quarterback here, I'm not losing to South Carolina," Watson said. "They were 0-5 when (Jadeveon) Clowney was there and I was like, 'I can't allow that.' So, my opportunity came up and I told him, 'Hey, I'll get the surgery the week after. I'm going to play.' And he said, 'If you can produce and perform throughout the week, then I'll let you play.' He let me do it and we ended up flipping the streak around."
Watson, who suffered the knee injury against Georgia Tech just two weeks earlier, took a week off and delayed his surgery in order to finish his season against South Carolina. Against the Gamecocks, he left the game twice but returned both times.
"I don't know if I can properly provide the right context for what it takes to play with a torn ACL but that's a pretty special deal right there," Texans general manager Rick Smith said Friday.
Watson's toughness isn't just limited to the football field. During his pre-draft visit with the Texans, Watson impressed head coach Bill O'Brien with his confidence in the meeting room. The young prospect wasn't easily rattled.
"It was actually the whole offensive staff that met with Deshaun when he came, which I don't think is easy for a young man to come in," O'Brien said. "Obviously, a bona fide draft prospect, a guy to come in here and have to stand up in front of, there were nine guys in the room: offensive line coach, receiver coach, quarterback coach, head coach. One of the things that impressed us the most was his ability to retain information with poise. We do several different things with our conversations with our quarterbacks. He handled it all very well. That impressed us."
Watson grew up in the rough parts of Gainesville, Georgia. Raised by a single mother of four, he dealt with adversity his entire life. Now, the Texans 2017 first-round draft pick is ready for the next chapter in his life: the NFL. Watson admits his emotions have been "sky-high" ever since he received the call from Houston less than 24 hours ago.
"I just love the game of football," Watson said. "It brings so much to me as a person, as a man. Football is fun. It helped me get to this point right now. I just love the challenges it brings. The adversity, the struggles. Just the teammates and the teamwork and the work that you have to put in each and every week to be able to be successful, especially at this level."
The Texans traded up to the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to select Watson on Thursday night. As a starter, Watson compiled a 32-3 (.914) record for the best winning percentage in Clemson's history for a quarterback. Watson becomes just the third player from Clemson drafted by the Texans, joining wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and nose tackle D.J. Reader.
Check out some of the best shots from Texans QB Deshaun Watson's introductory press conference.