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Editorial: Gell well quickly, Deshaun; your hometown is behind you
Knee injury cuts short Gainesville NFL star’s dazzling rookie season with Texans
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson prepares for a game Oct. 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs in Houston. Watson suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice on Thursday. (David J. Phillip) - photo by Associated Press

We offer a mournful plea to the football gods of fate: Come on, really? You had to do this to us?

Here we sit at the first of November and the good news had just kept coming. First with the local high school season ending and several area schools qualifying for the playoffs. And with Georgia Bulldog fans giddy at their team’s ascent to the top of the Southeastern Conference and college football playoff ratings. And while the Atlanta Falcons have wobbled a bit, a successful season is still in their grasp.

But best of all has been watching favorite son Deshaun Watson, Gainesville High’s brightest star, light up the NFL in his rookie season. After leading Clemson to the national title and finishing among the top Heisman Trophy awardees the last two years, Watson had taken the league by storm as the top draft pick of the Houston Texans.

But then it all came crashing down Thursday when he injured his knee in practice. The diagnosis: A torn ligament, likely ending his brilliant season just as it kicked into high gear.

Watson had become the first rookie in NFL history to pass for three or more touchdowns in four straight games, his 19 TDs the most ever by a player through seven games. In his third start (he was in the lineup by Week Two), he put up five touchdowns and a franchise record 57 points against Tennessee. He was named AFC offensive player of the month after throwing for 1,171 yards with 16 touchdowns and looked to be the top candidate for rookie of the year.

Last week in a memorable game at Seattle, he became the first player to pass for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns and rush for 50 or more in game. His performance earned raves of respect from the Seahawks’ defenders.

Now this. Stupid knee ligaments.

Talk about a letdown. The beleaguered city of Houston, still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey in late August, had just finished a night of gleeful celebration over their first World Series title, the hometown Astros bringing home the trophy after beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a memorial seven-game duel. Now their newfound NFL star is left to watch the rest of the season from the sidelines on crutches.

It’s a bummer for them, but mostly we feel badly for Watson. We’ve mentioned before how his humble, down-to-earth approach had won over fans at every stop on his career thus far, from Gainesville to Clemson to Houston and across the sporting world. 

For example, after receiving his first regular-season paycheck, he donated it to three employees at the Texans’ stadium cafeteria who had suffered losses in the hurricane, some $27,000 worth.

Gainesville, meanwhile, has become Deshaun City, hanging banners and naming streets for him in exuberant pride, not only for his football success but for the poised, thoughtful and amazing young man he has grown to become. He has inspired us all with his story of living in a Habitat for Humanity home and then returning that support, and his dedication and love for his mother Deann as she fought cancer.

Fortunately, his strong grounding in faith and family and his determination should see him through to a strong and speedy recovery. He suffered a similar injury at Clemson and bounced back to the top of the college football world, so he knows it can be done.

Godspeed, Deshaun, and heal quickly. We’re all still pulling for you and trust you’ll dodge this latest blitz of bad news and light up the scoreboard again in seasons to come. 

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a letter to the editor; you can use this form or send email to 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.

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