It’s still hard to believe that the best rookie talent in the NFL is from right here in Gainesville, Ga. Everyone in our city was buzzing about Deshaun Watson’s five touchdowns as Houston beat Tennessee 57-14 on Sunday.
The 2014 Gainesville High graduate had his first big splash on the professional stage with four touchdown throws and another running score as the Texans set a new franchise record for points, shattering their previous mark of 45 from 2014. It’s still very young in his career, but Watson is making Houston look very shrewd for moving up to take him with the 12th pick in the 2017 draft, while others are still left trying to justify taking other quarterbacks even higher.
For those who didn’t see it on TV (which was probably most of us in Gainesville who didn’t visit the local sports bar to watch it while pounding wings), Watson — making just his third professional start — was threading throws only his receivers could catch between defenders. With the element of the run always a threat with Watson now starting for Houston, his two best touchdown throws included an over-the-shoulder pass to Will Fuller in the corner of the end zone, along with a slant route to DeAndre Hopkins for another score.
Watson also took off a run untouched through the middle of Titans’ defense in his only trip to the end zone.
He finished the day 25-of-34 passing for 283 yards. Now we just have to see if this is an every-week thing for the former Red Elephants quarterback, who has the Texans (2-2) in a very real position to contend for the AFC South title.
Yes, our hometown ambassador is on a meteoric rise to greatness in the NFL that could last for many years to come. We all hope that it does.
But it wasn’t just his performance on the field Sunday that had all of Gainesville beaming. Watson showed tremendous compassion for those in Houston impacted by Hurricane Harvey last month. The video quickly went viral Wednesday when Watson, who guided Clemson to the 2016 national championship, presented his first game check in person to three stadium cafeteria workers who lost most of their material possessions to the ravages of the storm that battered the Texas coast.
That act of compassion has people here nearly as proud of Watson as the back-to-back years he was a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Watson has a tremendous platform to make a difference in the world. Now he’s seeing it to fruition.
Watson is not the first professional athlete from Gainesville. Many have gone on to do amazing things in major league baseball, professional football and also in golf.
However, Watson has already elevated his status to national icon. For those of us in Gainesville, we can proudly call him one of our own. The fella who wears No. 4 for the Texans learned how to throw a football right here in Gainesville and rose to national prominence as the top high school quarterback in the class of 2014.
It would satisfy most of us here in Gainesville to see Watson play on television. However, he’s quickly taken it to a whole other level, before the leaves even change color in his first season in the NFL.
We’re all beaming with pride that Watson is making our hometown look so good. Now we’re all fully invested to see what the future holds for his burgeoning professional career.
Way to go, Deshaun!
Bill Murphy is sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at email@example.com or 770-718-3415.