NEW ORLEANS — Clemson quarterback and Gainesville High graduate Deshaun Watson hasn’t let his disappointment over losing college football’s national title game stop him from watching it over and over again, reviewing what he did wrong and analyzing what he can do better next season.
Topping his recently concluded season will be no easy task. Watson won the Manning Award on Thursday as the nation’s top college quarterback.
Watson passed for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns. He rushed for 1,105 yards and 12 TDs. His team went 14-1, its lone loss coming against Alabama in Monday night’s national title game in Phoenix.
“I’ve watched the game probably, maybe four to five times already,” Watson said. “I evaluated myself … the missed throws I had, and the reasons for those missed throws, the reason for the interception.
“I’m just trying to improve my game, someway and somehow,” Watson continued. “I’m trying to learn from it and get better. We want to be in that championship game next year.”
The award is named after former college and NFL star Archie Manning, as well as his quarterback playing sons, Peyton and Eli.
“I’ve got to put Deshaun right in there with anybody,” Archie Manning said. “His passing ability was fantastic. His athleticism just shows out everywhere. … He’s got a great future. I know Atlantic Coast Conference defensive coordinators aren’t looking forward to facing him next year and everything he presents in a football game.”
Watson, who was a Heisman Trophy finalist this season, is the 12th annual recipient of the Manning Award and could very well be the 13th if next season goes as he intends.
“We have chance to be one of the best offenses ever in college football” in 2016, Watson said, noting that Clemson should have about eight offensive starters returning. “That’s our motivation — to be one of the best ever.”
Watson also is likely to be among the top preseason candidates for next year’s Heisman Trophy, and it sounds like he’ll embrace the hype surrounding that, even if it’s not an overriding goal.
“It’s something that, of course, I want to achieve,” Watson said. “The Heisman, it would be a privilege and an honor to receive that award, but at the end of the day I want to be the best I can be at my position for my team.
“I respect the game and everything that comes with it,” Watson added. “So if that happens, it happens, but it’s not going to define me and the person I am on and off the field.”