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MaxPreps names Gainesville QB Watson National Junior Player of the Year
Watson led Red Elephants to Class AAAAA state championship in 2012
Gainesville High junior quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, and teammate Michael Byrd speak during a time out as the Red Elephants pull away from Whitewater High during their semifinal win against Whitewater High in Fayetteville. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

It’s getting to the point where Deshaun Watson can hardly go anywhere without being noticed.

After yet another honor, that’s not likely to change.

The Gainesville High junior dual-threat quarterback, who led the program to its first state title in December, is now getting recognition on the national level with MaxPreps set to name him the National Junior Player of the Year for the 2012 Junior All-American Team.

The team is scheduled to be published Monday on the site.

He was already named the Georgia Associated Press All-Classification Player of the Year in December, along with The Times All-Area Player of the Year.

Watson, who has verbally committed to Clemson, threw for 4,011 yards and 50 touchdowns, and ran for 1,430 yards and 24 more scores for Gainesville, which blew out Ware County 49-13 on Dec. 14 in the Class AAAAA state championship game in Atlanta.

The three-year starter also set a number of records on the road to a state title, becoming the state’s all-time career leader in passing yards (9,360), touchdown passes (108) and all-purpose touchdowns (155), and becoming just the second quarterback in state history to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season.

Watson was surprised to hear about the award, but he’s come to expect the increased attention by now.

“A lot of people I’ve never seen before are coming up to me and saying congrats, saying Hi,” he said. “I try not to get a big head, so I just smile and go on with my business.

“But it feels great. My coaches and teammates told me that I was going to be recognized as one of the best players in the nation.”

Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, whose spread offense Watson has thrived in, is happy to see all the recognition for his quarterback, especially because he isn’t worried about Watson getting ahead of himself.

“He’s earned every bit of it,” Miller said. “Deshaun’s Deshaun.

“He’s very calm, he’s just been blessed with a God-given ability and he uses it for that, which makes him so special. If I was an 18-year-old kid, I don’t think I could not let that get to my head, but he just goes on with his life.”

While the awards for his junior season might be about up now that he’s been recognized at the highest level, the praise has only just begun as Watson prepares for a road trip to visit a number of colleges, including a couple on the West Coast.

It’s something the Clemson coaches knew to expect when they offered him during his sophomore year.

“The Clemson offensive coaches, (head coach) Dabo Swinney and (offensive coordinator) Chad Morris, told me by the end of my senior year that I was going to be recognized as one of the best players in the nation,” Watson said. “They said that everybody would want me.

“But I just have to keep up the hard work.”

That work includes working out a plan to graduate from Gainesville a semester early, which would allow him the opportunity to practice more with his college team in the spring.

“It helps a lot, because it’s a big jump for any quarterback,” he said. “It’s basically an extra season to get everything down pat, because it’s a big jump and you’ll be ahead of the game.”

It’s not a move — taking the challenging path — that would surprise those who know Watson.

“Each award gives him more pressure, so if he’s the National Player of the Year, he wants to play like the National Player of the Year, and he played like that in the playoffs,” Miller said. “That shows you the competitor he is, he challenges himself each day to get better.”

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