HOUSTON — When not practicing or breaking down film, Deshaun Watson looks for ways to motivate.
Before Houston’s playoff win last week, the quarterback gave his offense high-end headphones with a note that read: “Let’s be great.”
“I just had to remind them because that’s what we want to do … why not be great,” Watson said. “How great do you want to be to be able to achieve the goal?”
As the Texans look for a win over Kansas City this week to advance to the AFC championship game for the first time in franchise history, it’s easy to see how Watson’s mindset of greatness has spread throughout this team.
After the Texans rallied from a 16-point deficit in the third quarter to get a 22-19 overtime win against the Bills on Saturday, left tackle Laremy Tunsil was asked what the key to the huge comeback was.
“Having a quarterback like 4,” the big man said referring to Watson’s jersey number, before giving a look that indicated that was all that needed to be said.
Watson is always learning and looking for ways to improve as a leader. To that end, he’s reading a book about creating positive change titled “The Coffee Bean” by Jon Gordon and Damon West. Though Watson was already living the guiding principle in the book before he started reading it, seeing the idea in print reiterated the importance of its message.
“If you’re the coffee bean, you put a coffee bean in water and it spreads throughout the water and it changes the flavor,” Watson said. “So, you be the coffee bean that changes the environment that you’re in. Don’t let the environment change you.”
Gordon has worked with the Clemson football team for years and first became aware of Watson years ago when the quarterback was still in high school. But he still remembers the moment vividly.
Gordon was talking with Dabo Swinney when the Clemson coach pointed to Watson and explained who he was.
“He said: ‘He’s very, very special. He’s going to be one of the all-time greats,’” Gordon recalled.
Since then Gordon has gotten to know Watson through yearly visits to speak to the Clemson football team and has kept in touch with him since his move to the NFL. It didn’t take long for him to see that Swinney was exactly right about his assessment of Watson.
“If you watch him play and watch the way he leads he’s incredible,” said Gordon, a best-selling author who works with several college and professional sports teams. “The mental makeup, his will to win, he doesn’t get fazed. He loves the big moments. He was made for those moments and he really has this Michael Jordan-factor as Dabo said. He will do whatever it takes.”
Gordon sent Watson three of his books including “The Coffee Bean,” but didn’t know until this week that he was reading it. He isn’t surprised that the book spoke to Watson considering its message.
“Growing up in his environment he grew up in he could have been transformed by his environment with so many difficult circumstances he faced,” Gordon said. “And yet he overcame, and he’s really is the ultimate coffee bean because wherever he’s been, he’s transformed it.”
Watson’s positive attitude and ability to motivate others is only one of many reasons why the Texans value him so much. From the moment he arrived in Houston coach Bill O’Brien raved about his intelligence and football IQ. Earlier this season the rest of the world got a glimpse into what O’Brien sees every day when Watson broke down the Panthers entire defense in about a minute in response to a reporter’s question.
In the clip that has since gone viral, Watson uses both hands to illustrate players on the defense, where they’re going, what he sees and where the receivers are running their routes.
Fans were wowed to get a glimpse behind the curtain and receive some insight into how much is going on during each play. But for those who know Watson best, it wasn’t anything new.
“I’m always learning, always trying to improve, always asking questions, so it was not a surprise to anybody in this organization, in this locker room, the coaching staff, that that just kind of came out,” Watson said. “I was just communicating with (the reporter), explaining to him what was going on and what I saw. Just kind of putting him in my shoes and going from there.”
Another attribute the Texans love about Watson is his uncanny ability to make jaw-dropping plays that most other quarterbacks couldn’t make. Two of the most noteworthy of those plays came when he got kicked in the eye and still threw a touchdown pass against the Raiders earlier this season and on Saturday when he evaded two sacks to make a 34-yard completion in overtime.
Obviously, Watson’s talent is a huge reason why he’s able to make such plays. But another component in those plays goes back to the 24-year-old’s mind.
He simply believes that he’s supposed to make those impossible plays, as evidenced by his answer to if he was wowed when he saw a replay of Saturday’s play.
“For sure,” he said. “It was definitely one of my top plays I’ve ever made in my career. But for a lot of guys, especially in that locker room and a lot of people that’s watched me grow up and play, it was a wild play, but it wasn’t a surprise play for sure.”
But for those who are new to the Watson experience such as receiver Kenny Stills, who was traded from Miami in August, it’s still a treat to witness firsthand the things he does.
“Every time I see him do something like that I’m still surprised and amazed,” Stills said. “He really put the team on his back with some of the things that he did and we’re lucky to have him.”