NEW YORK — Gainesville High graduate Deshaun Watson, the quarterback for No. 1 Clemson (13-0), came in third place for the Heisman Award on Saturday in New York City. He came in behind winner Derrick Henry, of Alabama, and runner-up Christian McCaffrey from Stanford.
Watson, who guided the Red Elephants to a 2012 Class AAAAA state championship, threw for more than 3,500 yards in the regular season and accounted for 41 touchdowns, now turns his attention to the playoff semifinals for the Tigers.
Clemson faces Oklahoma (11-1) in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31 in Miami Gardens, Fla.
The clear winner, Henry bulldozed defenses while carrying Alabama’s offense this season, and then walked away with a Heisman Trophy.
The Crimson Tide’s super-sized tailback won college football’s most famous player of the year award Saturday night, becoming just the third running back to take the Heisman in the last 16 years.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry is the second Alabama player to win the Heisman, joining Mark Ingram. Since Ingram won the award in 2009, it had gone to five straight quarterbacks.
Stanford’s do-it-all running back McCaffrey was the runner-up, making it four second-place finishes for Cardinal players in seven seasons.
It was the closest Heisman voting since Ingram won by the slimmest margin ever, but still a comfortable victory for Henry. He received 1,832 points, 293 more than McCaffrey (1,539). Watson received the third-most points for a third-place finisher with 1,165.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield came in fourth and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was fifth, but Henry, McCaffrey and Watson dominated the voting.
Henry broke the Southeastern Conference record with 1,986 yards rushing — previously held by 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker — and matched a league mark with 23 touchdowns, leading No. 2 Alabama to the College Football Playoff.
He choked up during his speech, thanking his family, coaches and teammates, and mentioning former Alabama teammate Altee Tenpenny, who was killed in a car crash two months ago.
Henry was born to teenage parents and raised with the strong influence of his grandmother, Gladys, in the small north Florida town of Yulee, which is just outside of Jacksonville, but very much country living.
Gladys Henry has been hospitalized for weeks in Florida with heart and respiratory problems. Derrick Henry said his grandmother was with him in spirit as his childhood dream of winning the Heisman came true.
“I love you so much,” he said.
Henry came to Alabama as a five-star recruit. Before the Heisman came a dose of humility. For the first time football wasn’t easy. Being bigger, stronger and faster wasn’t enough in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
He was a backup on a crowded depth chart as a freshman and thought about transferring, but with the encouragement of his family decided to stay put.
As a sophomore he shared carries with T.J. Yeldon and ran for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns, showing signs of big things to come.
This season as a junior, with Alabama breaking in a first-time starting quarterback and inexperienced receivers, coach Nick Saban and the Tide decided to hook the offense to Henry and let him lead the way.
The Tide hammered away with Henry and he set a school record for carries with 339, including an astounding 90 in Alabama’s last two games against Auburn and Florida. He had four 200-yard games in the second half of the season.
He went for 210 against LSU to move to the front of the Heisman race, and had 271 yards in the Iron Bowl against Auburn.
Weary defenses got plenty of looks at big No. 5 from behind, his long bundled locks sticking out of the back of his helmet.
The Crimson Tide’s Predator.
After Ingram won the Heisman in ’09, he helped Alabama win the national championship about a month later. Henry will try to do the same. The Tide faces Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 31, trying to earn a fourth national championship in nine seasons under Saban.
Henry has not announced his intentions yet, but a jump to the NFL seems likely after this season.
Alabama placed its championship hopes on Henry’s broad shoulders and he has delivered.
“Roll Tide,” Henry said.