Deshaun Watson struts into the Houston Texans YMCA for the Gatorade “Beat the Heat” camp. His demeanor is not that of a boisterous, awe-inspiring figure. Rather, he is calm and poised. He walks casually into the center of the crowd, surrounded by photographers and children alike waiting to get a glimpse of the potential hero of Houston Texans football. You would never know what Watson was feeling. Whether it’s a 12 year old with an $800 phone trying to take a selfie or a reporter asking monotonous questions, Deshaun Watson’s demeanor is unchanged.
He is not Philip Rivers, holding heated media press conferences. He’s not Cam Newton, with flashy clothes and high self-praise. He’s not Aaron Rodgers, whose focus and intensity affect the whole room. He’s not Russell Wilson, seemingly born to be in front of the camera.
Instead, Deshaun Watson is the single most congenial person I have ever met. He did not fill the room with his presence despite every camera and eyeball being on him. He passed through the approximately 100 kids participating in several football drills like a kid at recess. With an entire city’s expectations on his shoulders and dozens of kids vying for his attention, Watson is unfazed.
He comes into my view and my eyes unconsciously dart down to look at his knees. Two zipper-looking scars lace his knee caps. I, as well as the rest of the NFL, were devastated to see Watson’s season come to an end last November. As a sufferer of a torn ACL myself, I can offer a layman's opinion about how Watson’s knee looked. I may be wrong, as I was not able to get a full look, but Deshaun’s knees look almost identical in size and muscle mass. That’s a good sign for his recovery trajectory. When it comes to the Texans’ present and future quarterback, I had no compunction about at examining his knee’s external appearance for myself.
When interviewing Watson, I found that he’s so soft-spoken you can be right in front of him without comprehending what he said. Maybe it was the screaming kids and loud music in the background (or perhaps it was my own nervousness), but it was almost impossible to decipher what Watson was saying. The first thought that came to mind was, “How in the hell was he able to call plays and command a huddle in a stadium like Seattle at the age of 22?” After being in the same room as him, you can see how he does it. He never gets too high or too low - on or off the field. Watson’s level-headedness is other worldly.
The Texans have had their fair share of quarterbacks in the last four years. From guys who sleep through their alarms to those who never seemed to understand why everyone thought they weren’t any good, this city and this team deserve more. Will Deshaun Watson be the kiss that breaks the curse? I hope so.
After the initial scrum, Mike Bullock and I were able to get face to face with Watson for our own interview. Battle Red Blog and Deshaun Watson. I felt like Squints from “The Sandlot” starring at Wendy Peffercorn. All my hopes and dreams were wrapped up in a single person.
Leaning against a wall padding with one leg kicked up, Watson stood there as we spit questions at him about his plans after minicamp, his records, his relationship with DeAndre Hopkins, and more. Watson fielded the questions with a relaxed confidence. Not cocky or underwhelming, but he has an air about him that’s strikingly different that anyone I have ever met. I had to pull out my high school vocabulary book to find the right word; the common tongue does not do Watson justice.
Deshaun Watson is imperturbable.
Once the interview had concluded, I trailed Watson on his way out of the facility and watched as he repeatedly stopped to take picture after picture with kids despite his representatives saying he had to go. DW4 clearly enjoyed talking to the kids (much more than the reporters), and he was clearly willing to do more that what was asked of him.
Everything Watson said went back to his hard work and preparation. Not the redundant Bill O’Brien taught phrases, but his actual habits and mindset. When answering questions about his future, a lot of what Watson said would flow into the past tense. For example, his preparation and relationship with DeAndre Hopkins in the coming season will come from the time spent in the film room and in practice. For a player who has played only seven NFL football games, Watson’s preparation and maturity were astounding.
In all honesty, I was damn nervous to interview Watson. All the advice I was given told me to “make it seem like a conversation, make it natural.” As I asked question after question, I realized I wasn’t nervous and that things were going pretty well, I became more confident and less worried about hitting every word in my prepared questions. The confidence Watson exudes made things easy for me. For Watson, this was like eating breakfast, routine as could be. I could feel how the magnitude of the game doesn’t affect Deshaun Watson or his mentality. That sereneness rubs off on others, making them feel more confident. Theodore Roosevelt would be proud—Deshaun Watson spoke softly and carried a big stick.
Many in the media are skeptical of Watson’s future, calling him the next RGIII or saying the Texans need to be on the lookout for other QB options in the near future. A NFL player without either ACL...how will he survive? I can tell you that the impression Deshaun Watson made on me in the few minutes I was in his presence gives me all the confidence in the world that he will be a rock star for the Texans.