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Watson: From Tragedy to Heisman Hopeful

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

A historic even will be made tonight at the Heisman Trophy Ceremony. Regardless of who takes home the trophy given to the nations best college athlete €”history has been made for Deshaun Watson and the Clemson Tigers.

In fact, the historical moment came at approximately 6:15 Monday evening when it was announced that the Tiger signal caller would be the first player in the history of Clemson football to be invited to New York City as a finalist for the most prestigious award in college athletics. Not Perry Tuttle, Homer Jordan, Steve Fuller, or CJ Spiller, but Deshaun Watson will forever be remembered as the first Clemson Tiger to ever receive the invite that all college athletes aspire for.

Leading the Tigers to the only undefeated record in college football, 13-0, Watson's numbers this season have given the voters a reason to consider him one of the best in the game:

  • Watson is the only quarterback in the country to have thrown for over 3,000 yards and rush for more than 800. Currently he sits at 3,512 yards passing and 887 yards rushing. With at least one game—possibly two-- left to play he needs only 488 yards passing and 113 rushing to become the first player ever to achieve 4,000 yards passing and 1000 yards rushing in a single season.
  • Watson ranks third in the nation with 69.5 completion percentage which is 1.5% higher than the mark set by former Heisman winner Jameis Winston.
  • Watson has accounted for an average of 338.4 yards per game of total offense which is 36.4 yards more per game than in 2013 when Jameis Winston won the Heisman.
  • Watson has accounted for 41 touchdowns this season
  • 415.4 total yards accounted for over the final five games of the season

For Deshaun Watson winning the Heisman Trophy tonight would mark the greatest single player achievements in Clemson history having already claimed the ACC Player of the Year, ACC Offensive Player of the Year, ACC Championship MVP, First Team All-American Honors by USA Today, and Thursday night taking home the Davey O'Brien Trophy given to the nations top quarterback. However, the journey to Heisman finalist hasn't been an easy one for Watson.

In high school Watson had it all. He was the schools star athlete. He played football and basketball at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, GA, all the while masterfully juggling the demands in the classroom with the demands of being recruited by every major college football program in the country.

Then it all changed.

"I was speechless. The first thing I thought of was death. Cancer is the same thing as death," Watson said. "It hurts a lot and it still does. Seeing her have to go through the stuff she had to go through and knowing she would never be the same person as she was before. She's the best mom a person can ask for."

Watson's mother, Deann, received news in the Winter of 2012 €”that news changed the lives the Watson family.

Watson's mother, Deann, was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue while Watson was still in high school and in 2011 underwent a full glossectomy, the removal of her cancerous tongue taking tissue from her breast to reconstruct her tongue.

"When the doctor told us that I had to lose my tongue my reaction was, it was something that I didn't want to happen but as I got used to it, it was something I had to make the decision that do I want to lose my tongue, or do I want to lose my life," Deann told the ACCDN. "I was sad. I was depressed and it was a hard time to go through this."

For Watson the realization that his mother had cancer was especially hard.

"When I found out she had cancer I just started crying. I didn't really know what to think," Watson said.

She spent six months in the hospital away from her children during this time having to listen to her son play his football games on the radio.

"It was hard at times when you get done with the game and you see the other kids going to see their parents and I'm not able to go and see mine €”it was hard."

Deann was declared cancer free in 2012, however the cancer has had a lasting effect on her life. She will be fed through a feeding tube for the remainder of her life, and her speech will be a struggle.

Deann was able to rejoin her son at the football games in Deshaun's junior year €”something that for Deshaun gave him the motivation he needed to "take it to the next level."

"Seeing her back in the stands. Gave me the motivation I needed in my junior year to take it to the next level," Watson said. "That's when I got the recognition of being the number one quarterback in the country and my state. Really that was just a great season overall to see her back in the stands, and cheering like she used to and seeing that smile on her face was very special."

Following his junior season he committed to the Clemson Tigers with the sole purpose of fulfilling his dreams.

"When my mom was going through the cancer is kind of when I figured that I would figure out where I wanted to be. Clemson is the school that helped me support my mom and kept me grounded and also told me that I would have all the opportunity in the world to fulfill your dreams here."

Fulfilling his dreams is exactly what Watson has done through his first two years in a Clemson uniform. Now on the cusp of a historical night in Manhattan, Watson is still trying to live up to the greatness he saw in his mother.

"That pain and hurt is going to take us a long way and get us through any situation that comes by," Watson said. "But she's a strong woman and seeing the stuff that she has gone through has inspired me to be great in whatever I do.