GREENVILLE, S.C. — Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson wore an orange helmet of a different style Sunday afternoon after winning Habitat for Humanity International’s inaugural Next Generation Award.
Upon receiving the award, the Gainesville native donned an orange construction helmet that was given along with the plaque honoring him. The Next Generation Award honors young people who grew up in a Habitat house for embodying the qualities of determination, commitment, dedication and citizenship and for setting an example for other Habitat families.
The award was presented to Watson by Larry Gluth, senior vice president with Habitat International, during the 30th Anniversary Founder’s Day Event of Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County.
Watson is a Heisman Trophy candidate and was named the preseason ACC Player of the Year. He has spoken often about growing up in government housing in Gainesville.
Watson’s life changed when he brought home information about Habitat for Humanity of Hall County from a church Halloween party when he was in elementary school. He gave it to his mother, DeAnn, who became inspired to improve her family’s life, and began the application process for a Habitat Hall home.
After their acceptance into the Habitat for Humanity program, DeAnn had to complete homeowner education classes and perform sweat equity. Deshaun joined in, passing out water bottles, fetching materials and getting tools for older volunteers because he was too young for the harder work.
He says it taught him lessons that he has used on the football field ever since. The Habitat home, which was furnished through the foundation of former Atlanta Falcons star Warrick Dunn, gave him a sense of place. It had a backyard. It was safe. It was home.
“It inspired me to do great things,” he said Sunday.