CLEMSON, S.C. - Confidence rides on DeShaun Watson's shoulders like a custom-fit backpack. "I'm the best player in the country," the Clemson junior quarterback said this week as preparations continued for the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31 against Ohio State.
CLEMSON, S.C. - Confidence rides on DeShaun Watson's shoulders like a custom-fit backpack.
"I'm the best player in the country," the Clemson junior quarterback said this week as preparations continued for the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31 against Ohio State.
It is, of course, well-known that he finished second in the Heisman Trophy race to Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson this season. But Watson, who was third in the Heisman vote in 2015, said it doesn't change his point of view.
"That's how I think. That's how I feel," he said. "People have their own way of voting."
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His coach, Dabo Swinney, saw the 2016 race the same way after Clemson had beaten Louisville early in the season.
"I definitely think (Watson) should have won the Heisman," Swinney said. But he added, "He doesn't need the Heisman Trophy for validation."
Watson has been flashing his talent and that confidence for years, which was why, as a dual-threat performer from Gainesville, Georgia, he was one of the more sought-after prospects in the 2014 recruiting cycle.
That Watson had committed to Clemson in early 2012 after his sophomore season in high school didn't deter other coaches, including Urban Meyer, who took over at Ohio State in 2012.
"We tried to get involved. He committed early, early, early," Meyer said. "Not a good player, great player. Not a good person, but a great person. … We tried to get involved. They did a good job locking him down."
Watson said there was a time Meyer could have had him.
"He was my favorite coach growing up, especially when he was at Florida," Watson said.
That's when Watson said he saw a coach, and more to the point, an offense that he thought fit him to a 'T.' Meyer arrived at Florida in 2005 and had a remarkable run, especially from 2006 to '09, when Tim Tebow was at quarterback. The Gators won national championships in 2006 and '08, and a Heisman for Tebow in 2007.
"I was a huge Gators fan, and one of the reasons was because of him, Tim Tebow - those two guys I kind of looked up to growing up," Watson said. "As a ninth-grader (in 2010), especially when I went to visit, that's where I wanted to go. I was telling myself, 'I want to be a Gator.' "
Watson became a freshman starter for his high school team in 2010 and grew into a can't-miss prospect wooed by most of the major programs in the country. But after six seasons at Florida, Meyer stepped away from coaching for the 2011 season to gain a grip on some physical and psychological challenges.
By the time Meyer emerged as the coach at Ohio State in 2012, "I became a Buckeye fan a little bit," Watson said. "But Clemson had gotten me first, and I just fell in love with this place."