It was evident to anyone who watched him during his decorated career at Clemson, but after two years in the NFL, Deshaun Watson has established himself as a superstar. The Houston Texans’ signal caller just completed his second year under center and put forth the best quarterbacking season in franchise history, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. It was his first full professional season — his rookie year was cut short by injury — and it could not have gone much better.
Well, that’s not totally true. Houston was bounced early from the playoffs, with Watson having a rough go of it during their Wild Card loss to the Indianapolis Colts. But with a clean bill of health and all eyes on the 2019 campaign, Watson is confident that will be more of a bump in the road than a sign of things to come for a team on, in his eyes, “the right path.” He’s also getting to pursue some off-field interests, like his partnership with Champs Sports on its Refresh Your Game campaign.
Before the season rolls around, Watson took some time to speak with Uproxx Sports about his first healthy offseason as a pro, his beloved Clemson Tigers, his sense of style, and much, much more.
What has been your main focus this offseason?
My main focus is really just trying to master my crafts, mentally, physically. And then also just make sure I maintain my health. This is my first offseason where I can have a full offseason so I can be able to eat right, train right. You know, be well-rested. I don’t have to focus on an injury and trying to get back. My rookie year I was doing all this media and campaign and traveling, trying to see what team I would get to and try to learn their offense, so all those things are the biggest things that I’ve been focusing on and cherishing.
I’m actually glad you mentioned that, because you can always ask any athlete the biggest difference from year one to year two, but I’m interested in what has been the biggest difference for you in offseason number two compared to offseason number one, when you kind of have a little bit more of a sense of what goes into all of this.
It’s really the, I guess, the time, the 24 hours in each day. Most of the time, my first offseason, I was rehabbing, so I didn’t really get to do the things on the field because I was very limited. Times where I tried to watch film and things like that, I had limited time before I had to do something else. So I was really trying to find my way and figure out my routine. But now, having a full offseason to help me to build a routine was big.
One thing that I noticed happened this offseason is you spent a little bit of time with Mike Vick. What did you learn getting to spend some time and pick his brain a little bit?
We spent not too much time, a couple hours, but honestly, we kind of just related on life in general. Just all the cool stuff and then being able to perform on the field. Just really paying attention to your what your coaches are saying, really watching a lot of film, especially with the coaching staff. And then having that confidence and swagger when you’re on the field, just being myself, because he was himself and that’s the biggest thing. You be yourself, you be confident. You’ll be able to help yourself perform well on the field.
What’s been the general vibe around the Texans as you’re trying to go from a team that made the playoffs and made some noise last year, to take that next step to be a Super Bowl contender?
We gotta grind a little harder. I think the vibe has been great, so really, it’s the health of the team. That’s the biggest thing as I said before, not just for myself, but the whole team. We get everyone healthy, on the same page, we can be a problem. We all know that franchise and that locker room. Our biggest thing is really just trying to find ways to take that next step, and I think we’re on the right path.
I was looking into this and trying to come up with some stuff to ask and I saw that Tom Brady gave you a piece of advice that I found really interesting, which is he told you to feel like you’re the underdog. To you, what does that mean and how do you apply that day in and day out?
Never getting too comfortable, because I understand what I can do, I’m very confident, I know the things that people sell on me in a good way. Having that underdog mentality is never letting anyone outwork you, and [asking] what will that underdog do to try to get on top? Let me go outwork the guy on top. Having that underdog mentality, staying humble, and keep on grinding is a must. It’s gotta be in your DNA.
Since I have here I wanna ask you a few questions about Clemson, because the run that they are on right now that you were such a big part of, we haven’t seen many quite like this in college football. You committed there in 2012. What was the vision that [Clemson coach] Dabo [Swinney] sold you on and has this run kind of met that vision? Has it surpassed it?
I want to say it’s surpassed it because the vision was winning a championship every year. We weren’t able to do that, we lost the first one in my junior year. But honestly it’s very … this is what coach Dabo Swinney and coach Chad Morris told me when I was a sophomore in high school. Like you said, I committed in 2012 before any of this was even thought of, and I believed in what he was saying, convinced me in a positive way and I wanted to be a part of it, and he said that I can be the quarterback to really start that trend and start the wave of what they’re doing now. So I really feel like and believe that I was one of the guys to get a lot of recruits there, a lot of people, a lot of coaches, a lot of attention in a positive way, and we were doing it right. They’re gonna continue to do that.
It certainly helps that you were part of such a really great quarterback lineage there, and the next guy’s Trevor Lawrence. What, in your watching him and your communication with him, do you think makes him a special talent?
He’s a guy with a lot of confidence in himself. He knows who he is and he knows that he’s very humble, and he has that underdog mentality, also. So it’s been great to be able to watch him grow, especially with him [being] from Georgia and myself being from Georgia. And I was very familiar with Cartersville High School so it’s cool to be able to watch him grow and follow the, I guess, my footsteps and lead him to Clemson University. So he’s gonna continue to get better.
What have you got going on with Champs right now?
Yeah, man, we’re Champs, doing the Refresh Your Game campaign and just being able to let people know — especially young kids, but anybody in general — just to be confident in your fit and get a scholarship from Champs Sports, and swag out in whatever you wanna swag out in, and just being able to do that. So I always make sure that I stay on top of my fashion and what I got to express myself each and every day, and I get to do that with Champ Sports.
I’m glad you mentioned staying on top of your fashion. Is that something that has always been important to Deshaun Watson or is it something that once you got to the NFL you felt like you really got a chance to focus on making sure you always had the best possible fit on?
Honestly, I’ve always kind of liked fashion. I didn’t really know exactly what type of fashion I was very interested in. I was trying all types of stuff, but I had to really find out who I am as a person and what I want to express every time I put on some clothes. I didn’t really have much growing up, we couldn’t afford all the stuff I wanted to. I knew that if I had an opportunity with the gifts I have to go to college and play football, I get a little money in my pocket and I can be able to do that. So now I’m taking full advantage of it and being able to show it.
Football is an interesting sport in that you have your helmet, you have your jersey, you have your pants, there aren’t many opportunities to show off your sense of style. Are there any ways that you kind of get that opportunity on the field?
You just gotta have your own vibe, the energy you give off while you’re on the field. And then, of course, there’s cleats and the way you organize your socks, one sleeve, no sleeves, you want tattoos showing, you wear gloves, wristbands and all that stuff. So you just gotta find your ways. It’s a different style for sure.
Two quick ones to end. First, the NBA is all about who has the best sneaker game, who has the best cleat game in the NFL?
Let me think. Off the top of my head, I’d probably say Odell [Beckham Jr.], Jarvis [Landry]. Trying to think who else could be rocking some dope cleats around me, but those are the two right off the top of my head for sure, Odell and Jarvis.
And last question, what are your three favorite sneakers of all time?
I like the Air Force Ones low tops, the classic all whites. You probably have to get like three pair in a year, clean them up, but they get a little dirty, but if they’re still $100, $99, $95, something like that, you can grab those. The Jordan 1s, those are classic. And then, third sneaker of all time? I love the Air Max 95s.