HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t competing.
Whether it was trying to outrun his older brother while taking out the trash as a child or running away from defenders during a game of flag football he had the same mentality.
“It’s definitely in my DNA to go out there and compete and try to win in everything I do,” Watson said.
Years later the Houston Texans quarterback has maintained that same mindset, and when you ask almost anyone about him that’s one of the first things they’ll bring up. As the Texans prepare to host the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday, coach Bill O’Brien reminisced about his early interactions with Watson and when he knew he was special.
“He’s a winner, cares about winning, will do whatever it takes to win,” O’Brien said. “That came across in the first two meetings, so I would say it was way before he got here and on the practice field.”
Since then as O’Brien has gotten to know Watson better and watched him lead the Texans he’s only become more impressed with him.
“He’s got great poise,” O’Brien said. “Anybody that’s been around him for a long time, (knows) he doesn’t have any fear. He has no fear and …. he has a lot of fun playing, you see the smile on his face, he loves playing football and he loves being out there with his teammates.”
Watson takes great pride in being a leader and knows how he carries himself will rub off on the rest of the team and impact how others perform.
“You’re the face of the franchise and everyone is looking (at) you,” he said. “So regardless if you’re down, if you’re up, you’re facing that adversity (or) you’re having success too, people want to still see that fight and that will to continue to finish what you started and try to win the game or what you’re competing in. Everyone is going to follow that and everyone will see it.”
Receiver DeAndre Hopkins loves that quality in Watson and thinks that’s one of the reasons why he’s so successful.
“Everybody in this locker room, offense and defense feeds off of his game and how he never feels like we’re out of a game no matter what the score is,” Hopkins said. “He’s a winner. He’s won his whole career and it shows every day in everything he does.”
Watson has a penchant for shining in the biggest moments. He did it when he helped Gainesville high school to a state title and at Clemson when he led the Tigers to a national championship in the 2016 season. Watson has continued that success with the Texans where he’s helped them to consecutive AFC South titles and had some of his biggest games when Houston was playing in prime time.
But in perhaps the biggest game of his NFL career, Watson came up short. Last season in his playoff debut Watson threw an interception and struggled to move the offense effectively in a 21-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
He believes the experience in that playoff game will help him on Saturday when he gets another chance to notch his first postseason win.
“Just knowing that … the game is going to go by faster, the plays, the players play a little bit faster than the regular season. Everything just speeds up,” he said. “So, just being able to be prepared and see how the energy and everything changes in a playoff game, it really helps out to get that firsthand look last year. I know it didn’t go our way, but we’ve got another opportunity this year.”
He has thrown for 3,852 yards with 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and ran for 413 yards with seven more scores this season. Watson, who sat out last week with Houston’s playoff spot set, struggled with turnovers in his last three starts. He threw five interceptions in those games after only being picked off twice in Houston’s previous five games. He said those miscues are a big reason the offense hasn’t been as powerful recently as it was earlier in the season.
“My turnovers,” he said. “That’s pretty much it … if I don’t turn two balls over in Tennessee that’s 14 extra points and who knows how the game goes. It’s something that we corrected.”
O’Brien has no doubt that Watson will get back on track this week and raved about how much he’s improved in his three seasons with the Texans.
“He gets better every day,” O’Brien said. “I wouldn’t be able to pick out one thing. He gets better every day at everything. He tries to work on everything from mechanics to knowledge of the game plan to defensive knowledge.”