In the current NFL, young quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are getting all the headlines. Hiding in the shadow of those two, however, is Deshaun Watson, the two-time Pro Bowler who has already brought Houston back to their winning ways. Growing up, however, one might have expected Watson to look up at Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or other superstar quarterbacks of their time.
Instead, Watson looked toward a different type of player, and that player was… NBA star JJ Redick?
Deshaun Watson’s career
Watson first became a household name with the legendary Clemson football program. Under the tutelage of Dabo Swinney, Watson went from bench quarterback to starter during his freshman year, but his real breakout came as a sophomore.
That year, Watson completed almost 68-percent of his 491 passes for over 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. The next year, in which Clemson won the championship, that yardage shot up to 4,593 with 41 touchdowns on a similar completion rate.
By the time that the NFL draft rolled around, Watson was a hot commodity, even if he wasn’t projected to go first. Eventually, Houston snatched him 12th overall.
It only took him one season to work his way into the starting lineup. That year, in seven games, Watson threw for 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 1,669 yards. This secured him a starting role for year two.
As the full-time starter, Watson got even better, throwing for over 4,000 yards on 68-percent accuracy. That year, which the Texans finished 11-5, Watson threw for 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He followed this up with a similar, albeit slightly worse 3,862-yard, 26-touchdown, 12-interception season. While not quite as polished as Mahomes yet, Watson is among the most promising young quarterbacks in the game.
Despite this, basketball was not his first love.
The next J.J. Redick?
“I used to pretend I was J.J. Redick.”
That’s how Deshaun Watson started a piece he wrote for The Players’ Tribune. He went on to speak about how he never truly played a lot of football.
Instead, he was constantly at the park putting up shots and pretending that he was playing for Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. He would emulate the last three seconds of a game and pretend that Duke was down by two with the game in his hand.
It was a play he had seen on television before watching Redick and company on television.
“I saw Duke run that play for J.J. Redick a million times, and he was always money,He was my favorite player. I modeled my game after his because I was a shooter, just like him. We both played the two. We both wore number 4. And Duke was my mom’s favorite team, too. So, to me, the whole thing mapped out perfectly.”
Basketball was his passion, but as high school approached, and he began to play football things changed.
Deshuan Watson chooses football
When Watson was 14, his high school got a new quarterback coach. That coach, Michael Perry, took on a fatherly role that Watson never had as a child. He not only made sure that he was throwing the ball correctly, but he also checked in on his personal life and made sure that Watson was becoming as good a man as he was a quarterback.
The practice with his coach and the genuine interest that Perry showed his family helped change Watson. Sure, he had an interest in football, but as Watson writes about his coach it is clear that he represents so much more.
Watson still has a love for basketball, but as one of the best young prospects in the NFL, it would appear he made the right decision by changing course and choosing a different sport.