“We’re going to win it because we love each other.”
By Carter Brooks
It was a storybook ending for Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers this past January. Winning a 35-31 nail biter, Clemson rallied from behind against the number one seed, Alabama Crimson Tide, to score a game-winning touchdown with one second left on the clock in the National Championship Game. Never before had another college football team defeated Alabama head coach, Nick Saban in a title match—Saban was a perfect 5-0 in championship games heading into the 2016-17 season.
Although quite the spectacle to take in, the most meaningful play of the game occurred long after the final seconds ticked off the clock.
No, it wasn’t in the celebratory high fives, hugs, or in even some cases, kisses. It wasn’t in the traditional handshakes among opponents, nor was it in the reception of the college football playoff national championship trophy. It was on the field in the post-game interviews where both Clemson quarterback, Deshaun Watson and head coach, Dabo Swinney openly praised their Saviour, capturing the hearts of roughly 26,000,000 viewers internationally.
“I’m speechless right now,” Watson admitted jubilantly on live television. “This is what God wanted; He put us here for a reason. I talked with one of my coaches (before the game) and he said that this is just like a movie, and it is going to end the right way. He told me to just keep believing in God and believing in my teammates. If I did all of that, then everything would fall into place. And that is exactly what happened; now we are national champs and it’s amazing.”
For a 21-year-old, third-year college quarterback who completed 36 of 56 passes throwing for 420 yards and three touchdowns, even having the wherewithal to put together comprehendible sentences moments after winning the country’s college football championship is one thing, but to do so in an uplifting manner is certainly another.
Watson—who claims to model parts of his faith after his coach—didn’t have to look too far down the field to see his coach giving an interview of his own.
“Only God can do this,” Swinney said. “Winning a national championship against the best team in the country up until the last second of this game…I told my guys tonight that the difference in the game was going to be love. It’s been my word, and my word all year has been love. I said that tonight we’re going to win it because we love each other.”
Praising the Lord is nothing new for either the future National Football League quarterback or his accomplished play-caller. Watson’s faith even played a part in his decision to attend Clemson University, and play for coach Swinney.
Although it may not have been the number one deciding factor in how Watson chose a recruiting school to spend his college days at, it did hold enough significance to be mentioned in an interview Watson held with the Associated Press.
“It was a part of (my decision), of course,” Watson says. “Knowing that my coach is a man of God.”
His coach has spoken many times at length about his deep rooted faith, and how he encourages a certain mentality and atmosphere amongst those who play in his program.
“As a Christian, I hope a light shines through me,” Swinney says. “I don’t want to be persecuted for that, and I don’t try to persecute somebody else because they have different beliefs. I try to be who I am, and I try to be transparent; I try to live my life in a way that I hope is pleasing to my maker. As a program, we try to challenge these guys to be the best that they can be every day.”
Not only does Swinney talk the talk, he, along with Clemson University as a whole, walks the walk as well.
It wasn’t too long ago that Clemson alumnus and current NFL standout receiver, DeAndre Hopkins was baptized in front of his teammates on the practice field. This move was highly publicized and found itself front and centre in the media for quite some time. But much like his attitude towards that event, coach Swinney remains firm in his beliefs.
“If I can have a positive influence on somebody’s life, I think that’s great, I really do,” he says. “I think if my faith is inspiring to other people, that’s pleasing to God. Because according to my faith, you’re not supposed to hide it. You’re supposed to live it. My job is to coach and win football games. I’m very thankful to my maker because I know how blessed I am just to have today and to have the opportunities that I have.”
After spending three seasons under the watchful eye of head coach Swinney, Deshaun Watson has declared for the 2017 NFL Draft. In doing so, Watson has made it apparent that he will bring his talents and spiritual outlook to the grandest of stages. His college career was but a foretaste of a great feast to come. And without a doubt, that feast will include the partnership of his football abilities paired with his open spirituality — a considerably influential mix.
Although constantly facing new obstacles and challenges, Watson will continue to remain faithful in his pursuit, sticking boldly to the fact that God remains at the centre of his life.
CARTER BROOKS is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, Manitoba. On top of reading and writing, coaching hockey is his favourite pastime.
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