Deshaun Watson has been everything to his legions of adoring fans in Hall County. In 2018, he’ll hopefully slide right into the role of comeback kid.
The Houston Texans’ rookie quarterback and Gainesville High graduate was taking the league by storm with his elite passing and running abilities before enduring a season-ending knee injury, doing routine stuff Thursday in practice.
It took a while for the news to sink in to those of us who have been watching with amazement as his rookie season unfolded. Deshaun’s first year in the league wasn’t supposed to end like this. We were coming to the realization that the Texans’ quarterback was on track to earn Rookie of the Year honors, especially after throwing for 402 yards and four touchdowns in a wild back-and-forth-loss at Seattle.
Superman can’t get hurt. But he did. We’ll all be watching the same man who guided the Red Elephants to a 2012 state championship go through surgery, rehabilitation and get his confidence and timing back for a triumphant return in 2018.
Nobody will work harder to be great than Watson. Every step of the way, he’s been ahead of the learning curve.
In 2017, he was a panacea for the Houston metropolitan area ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. For those who hadn’t seen Watson’s exploits at Gainesville High or Clemson University, where he claimed the 2016 national title, he was playing like a savvy veteran for the Texans (3-5) as they were a contender in the race for the AFC South title at the midway point of the season.
Everything was going so well for Watson, who quickly captivated a national audience with his unique blend of athletic ability and down-to-earth personality. In his first seven games, he threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns — passing Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner for most TD thrown in that span. If that pace had continued, he would have certainly been in the conversation for the Pro Bowl at season’s end.
However, 2017 ended too fast for Watson. When the news came down late in the afternoon Thursday that his rookie year was finished due to an ACL tear, everyone had the same reaction with a long pause and mouth agape.
It totally took all the air out of the news from just hours earlier that Watson was both the AFC Offensive Player of the Month and NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October.
There was also an instantaneous outpouring of support for Houston’s quarterback from the biggest names in sports, such as LeBron James, as he began the long and arduous road to being physically healthy again. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who is lost for the season too, also put out a strong statement in support of Watson on Twitter.
Then on Friday, Watson put out his own statement. Houston’s quarterback said he initially felt like he let his teammates down, but puts his faith in God that everything happens according to a greater purpose.
The competitor that he is, Watson made sure it was clear that he’ll be back and better than ever in 2018.
Since his professional career began, Watson has been a platform for positivity during times when bad news seems to dominate.
Watson, who was the 12th overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft, has dealt with serious injury before. In 2014, he endured a season-ending knee injury (not the same knee hurt last week) near the end of a phenomenal freshman season at Clemson University. He rebounded from that by taking the Tigers to back-to-back national title games, plus was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2015 and 2016.
Watson was diligent and hard-working to make sure he got back on the field from the knee injury just four seasons ago. I’m sure he’ll be able to do it again.
This most recent injury was most unfortunate, cruel, terrible — pick whichever adjective you feel is best — to afflict our hometown hero. However, it’s just another brutal example of how life is never fair and things change in the blink of an eye.
A knee injury will not derail Watson’s NFL career. It’ll just be the sour end to the first chapter.
But this book will continue. He’ll be even better going forward. And it will all be because of the love and respect Watson has for the game.
The cream shall, again, rise to the top.
Bill Murphy is sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Bill_Murphy313 on twitter.