“One Gainesville” was never more evident than at Sunday’s unveiling of Deshaun Watson Way on Gainesville High School’s campus.
Young, old, black and white huddled to see the new street sign in honor of the former Gainesville High quarterback who led the school to its first state championship in 2012.
Mayor Danny Dunagan read a proclamation with Watson’s mother, Deann, by his side, wearing her son’s No. 4 jersey.
The football star, who led Clemson to the national championship against Alabama last month, could not attend. Family said Watson continues to work out for scouts in preparation for the NFL draft April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
The mayor proclaimed that Watson’s contributions go beyond his prowess on the gridiron. In 2015, Dunagan said, Watson was awarded the Habitat for Humanity “International Next Generation Award.”
The proclamation went on to say: “Whereas Deshaun has earned the respect and admiration of his teammates and peers through his hard work and determination, and has given inspiration to many.”
The crowd joined in counting down the unveiling and erupted into applause when the sign was uncovered showing Deshaun Watson Way where Touchdown Drive used to be.
Dunagan shared with the crowd that he and City Council grappled with whether to name the sign Deshaun Watson Drive, Pass or Way.
“After a little discussion it was unanimous, by the way he lives his life, that it should be Deshaun Watson Way,” Dunagan said.
Bruce Miller, Gainesville football coach for the past 15 seasons, said he’s been blessed with great players, and Watson is high among them.
“This young man, what he’s accomplished in high school and what he’s accomplished in his college career, and what he’s going to accomplish with his pro career, is just unreal,” Miller said. “He was born and raised in Gainesville, and that’s what makes it so special. Occasionally Gainesville will get a transfer kid from another school, but this kid was born and raised here by good parents. It’s a special thing to honor him.”
Miller said NFL teams, including the Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, have been contacting him about Watson.
“Whoever in the NFL draft gets him, they don’t know it, but they’re getting a special human being,” Miller said. “He can turn a franchise around.”
Sonia Watson, Deshaun’s aunt, called it a big day for the entire family.
“It means a lot to Deann,” she said. “It’s good that the hometown is so happy for Deshaun. We look forward to great things from him. We’re excited about it and so happy.”