This is the time of year when NFL players are getting in their final bit of relaxation before training camp starts. That is, unless you’re a rookie quarterback who might end up starting Week 1.
Houston Texans first-round pick Deshaun Watson is the favorite to be the first rookie quarterback to get a start this season. He’s not predicting if or when that will happen, but when the Texans go to camp later this month, he’ll be ready.
“I’m grinding, getting my work in and trying to find some down time to myself,” Watson said in an interview as part of Dick’s Sporting Goods’ “Celebrate Youth Sports Weekend.” “It’s going to be a long year. It’s going to be a real grind.”
Watson said he’s trying to find a couple hours a day to relax. But there’s a lot of work to do.
Watson will enter camp as the backup to Tom Savage. Savage has never thrown an NFL touchdown and now has the 12th overall pick, Watson, over his shoulder. It would be a major surprise if Watson doesn’t start at some point this season, and it would be a surprise if the move doesn’t happen relatively early in the season. Watson could end up starting Week 1 if he has an impressive preseason. But Watson insists he doesn’t have a timetable in his head and isn’t worried about when he’ll get the call.
“My thought is, whatever is best for the team,” Watson said. “I’ll be prepared the best I can be, and go from there.”
Plenty will point across the state of Texas for a recent example of a team turning to a rookie quarterback and having immediate success. Dak Prescott was amazing for the Dallas Cowboys last season and led them to the playoffs. Dallas had a great offensive line and running game, and the Texans have a lot of things in their favor too. The 2016 Cowboys weren’t coming off a playoff berth like Houston is this season. Houston seems like a good situation to step into for a rookie quarterback.
Prescott set a completely new bar for rookie quarterbacks to cross, posting perhaps the best season a rookie quarterback has ever had, but Watson said he’s not trying to live up to that expectation.
“Dak had a great year, he was very successful but I can’t focus on what he’s doing and trying to do what he did,” Watson said. “I just want to be the best I can be.”
Watson doesn’t seem fazed by much, which makes sense. He has played on the biggest stage college football has, with two memorable matchups against Alabama in College Football Playoff title games. Watson and Clemson won the second one, stamping his place in college football history.
You’d think playing in such big games in college would help Watson make the NFL transition. It’ll be a while before he plays in an NFL game as big as a CFP championship game against Alabama. But he understands his accomplishments in college won’t matter to the NFL players he’ll face.
“It’s a whole different league,” Watson said. “Everyone is a pro, everyone is paid to play. I just want to focus on what I can do best and not on what happened in college.”
If Watson is nervous in the least by what will happen next, he’s done a good job hiding it.
While Watson has been studying the playbook to be prepared for his opportunity, he is working with Dick’s Sporting Goods to promote youth sports, a cause that’s important to Watson. Watson said he played mostly football and basketball when he was young, with some baseball and track too. Watson said he started playing flag football at 6 years old. Dick’s is donating one percent of all sales this weekend to support youth sports teams in need, and any customer accompanied by a child wearing his or her youth team uniform or team gear will receive 20 percent off.
“Being able to give back and help youth sports continue to grow and take that forward is awesome,” Watson said.
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