To: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, National Champion Clemson Tigers.
For years, Gainesville has been proud to call you a hometown son, from your days leading the Gainesville Red Elephants to a state title and high school passing records, and to your college career beyond.
Now we’re even more proud to give you a new title: National champion.
People who aren’t from here may not have understood why we gushed so much about your poise as a person and a player even before you took a college snap for Clemson. Three years later, they know what Gainesville fans and the rest of Hall County knew a long time ago.
As you rallied from two touchdowns behind to knock off the juggernaut that is Alabama 35-31 on Monday and deliver the Tigers’ first national championship since 1981, you displayed the relentless competitive fire and physical gifts that have fueled you for years.
Your grace under the glare of the spotlight since finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist a year ago and Heisman runner-up this year has been breathtaking. In a day and age when athletic stars regularly end up on the front page for the wrong reasons, you continue to represent Gainesville in a first-class manner.
And in the midst of your greatest personal achievement, you expressed your gratitude to so many, including those in your hometown, many of whom leaped and cheered in celebration along with you clad in their matching, orange-trimmed jerseys bearing No. 4.
Habitat for Humanity, which helped provide a home for your family in the past, honored you last fall for all the work you have done in helping the group provide homes for others. You showed then, as always, that being a champion is more than just what happens on the field but how you conduct yourself and the lives you can touch.
From the beginning of your college career, you showed the patience to wait for your opportunity after beginning the 2014 season as backup quarterback before eventually being elevated to starter in the middle of your freshman year.
And even as fame and fortune beckoned, you had the wisdom and foresight to complete your college degree and graduate in only three years. If and when football is no longer there for you, there’s no doubt you will be successful at whatever you seek to achieve.
On and off the field, you let your hard work and production speak for itself. And when your moment came, you seized it in a major way on the game’s biggest stage.
Your high school coach, Bruce Miller, recently mentioned that he saw Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott on TV and couldn’t help but imagine you similarly excelling in the NFL in the years to come.
So whether it’s with the 49ers, Bears, Jets or some other lucky team, let them know they’ll be selling plenty of jerseys in Northeast Georgia come this fall. Whatever the pundits and scouts may say about your pro prospects, we know the intelligence, work ethic and other intangibles you bring to any team far outweigh your incredible physical gifts. No smart person should ever bet against such a proven winner, one with the rings to show for it.
Deshaun, we’re bursting with pride to tell people you’re from Gainesville, and we look forward to cheering you on each fall Sunday for years to come. Thank you for the thrills you’ve given us so far, and don’t ever doubt for a minute this whole town is behind you with every snap you take.
Sincerely, your fans in Gainesville and Hall County.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; you can use this form or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.