From ball boy to starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson can't help but look back to where it all began.
For the first time in his career, Watson will face his hometown team. The Texans host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at NRG Stadium.
"It's going to be a neat experience," Watson said. "A lot of people in that organization are still in that organization that I will get to see Sunday. Kind of watched me grow up, go through high school, through college. People that I threw to, like of course Julio (Jones) and watched how he improved over the years and me looking up to those guys."
When he wasn't the starting quarterback for Gainesville High School, Watson helped out the Falcons at their training facility and was on the sidelines for games. He earned a job as a ball boy, but Watson learned a lot about the game of football during those years. He threw to receivers like Jones, a two-time, First-Team All-Pro, and he watched an NFL MVP quarterback in Matt Ryan.
"I did everything," Watson said. "I did the equipment, washed the laundry, I threw to all the receivers, I threw with Matt Ryan, I watched him throw, did some of the water stuff, helped (Falcons owner) Arthur Blank out. I mean, I pretty much did everything. I was there for four years and kind of got the whole experience so it was awesome to be able to watch everything, watch the walk-throughs, watch the practices and learn."
Watson's favorite memory was getting a taste of the playoffs. In 2012, Ryan led the Falcons to a 13-3 regular season record and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
"That run they had when I think they played Seattle, then they played the 49ers," Watson said. "That year was just a heck of a year, just kind of getting the experience of the regular season and then also the playoff atmosphere and being on the sideline with the team. It was neat."
Ryan, now in his 12th season, remembers a young Watson helping out during those early years in his career. Even after he left, the young ball boy made an impression on Ryan, leading the Clemson Tigers to a national championship and then going on to become a first-round NFL draft pick in 2017.
"It feels like yesterday he was here launching balls to our wide receivers here in training camp," Ryan said Wednesday. "He'd always be down at the Dome on Sundays after games, before games, helping out. It's been amazing to watch his career through college and now in the NFL. I'm happy for him, I'm proud of him. He's a great player and a great competitor and he's had a great career so far."
Kickoff is set for 12 noon CT on FOX-26 and SportsRadio 610.
QB Deshaun Watson and Gatorade helped 50 kids beat the heat by teaching them about the importance of hydration and heat safety at the Houston Texans YMCA.