NFL

Deshaun Watson Crossed Paths With the NFL Way Before Going Pro

The Houston Texans quarterback had a tough upbringing, but Deshaun Watson often tells his story as a means of inspiring others. Part of his difficult childhood made him come face to face with another well-known NFL player long before Watson dreamed of making it into the NFL. His story goes to show just how small this world can be.

Deshaun Watson’s childhood

In 2018, Watson highlighted his tough upbringing in an article for the Players’ Tribune. He explained that as a kid, he didn’t imagine himself throwing a football. Instead, he pictured himself like NBA sharpshooter, hitting long jumpers on the neighborhood basketball hoop.

Watson says that when he grew up, he wanted to be like J.J. Redick, citing his mom’s Duke fandom. His mother was an inspiration to the Gainseville, Georgia native, so this path was Watson’s way of both furthering his family’s status and making his mother proud. 

“I grew up without a father figure in my home,” Watson wrote for the Players’ Tribune. “My mom was a single mother, working multiple jobs to raise her four kids. For most of my childhood, we lived in government housing … where I always played pickup football and basketball with the older kids, some of them drug dealers and gang members.”

It was in high school, when Watson met his Gainesville quarterbacks coach, Michael Perry, that his focus shifted from the hardwood to the gridiron. Watson credits Perry with not only giving him athletic abilities but also skills off the field.

Even as the teen continued playing basketball, Watson would leave his basketball practices to train for football with Coach Perry. The NFL QB says Perry turned him from a football player into a quarterback, but perhaps those seeds were planted long before this inspiring partnership.

Watson crosses paths with an NFL star

In 2006, Watson’s mother was working many jobs to take care of her kids. A young Watson attended a church event for underprivileged kids and returned home with a candy basket that included a pamphlet for Habitat for Humanity. It claimed that if his mom donated 300 hours of her time, she’d be able to move into a Habitat home, herself. 

Watson’s mother gladly took on the work. As a result, she received a home of her own, and the man who paid for it was NFL running back Warrick Dunn. The Falcons star did a lot for his community, and as luck would have it, this particular good deed helped a future NFL star. 

Watson’s football path 

Whether he knew it as a child or not, Watson would follow in Dunn’s footsteps in more ways than one. After his time at Clemson University, he was picked No. 12 in the 2017 draft. He spent half the season on the bench before shining as the Texans’ starter — and he’s been their go-to playmaker ever since. 

During the 2018 season, Watson led the team to an 11-5 record, over 4,000 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. It was a breakout season for the quarterback who had overcome so much. Now, Watson is having another stellar year in Houston, with 13 touchdowns passes and a 4-3 record through seven games. 

Perhaps Dunn’s charitable streak rubbed off. When Warson received his first NFL check, he didn’t spend it on a car or house. Instead, he donated it to the victims of the hurricane that swept through Houston.

In a world where athletes often get headlines for the wrong reasons, these stories inspire us to do great things. After all, you never know who you’ll end up helping.