From the Clemson Tigers to the Houston Texans, Deshaun Watson’s family has been with him every step of the way. Deshaun’s mother, Deann, is the heartbeat of the family and helped shape Deshaun into the leader he is today.
Heavy had an opportunity to sit down with Deshaun at the P&G Style Lounge on the eve of the 2017 NFL Draft. Deshaun, who was representing Old Spice, was getting the final touches on his look for his NFL debut.
“I think my purpose in life is to share my story and be able to give back to other people. Let people know they can achieve anything they want to,” Deshaun told Heavy.
As his mother fought through cancer, Deshaun stepped up along with his older brother, Detrick, to make sure their younger brother and sister had what they needed. Other family members like Deshaun’s aunt and uncle made sure the entire family was taken care of as Deann got the treatment she needed to beat cancer. While Deshaun’s father was absent, he used the experience to become the kind of man he wanted to be by advocating for others through organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
The Watsons watched as Deshaun went from being a four-star high school quarterback in Gainesville, Georgia to leading Clemson to their first national championship in over 35 years. The family will continue to cheer Deshaun on as he makes the jump to the NFL with the Houston Texans.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Warrick Dunn Presented Deshaun’s Family the Keys to Their Habitat for Humanity Home
It’s been a story recited before every big Clemson football game, but it is worth repeating. When Deshaun was 11 years old, former NFL player Warrick Dunn handed him the keys to a new house through Habitat for Humanity. It was Deshaun that heard about the program and brought a flyer home to his mother.
Deshaun spoke to the Associated Press about what the moment was like.
“I felt grown having my own room,” Watson told the Associated Press. “Just having my own bed, not really being squished, not really worrying about someone sneaking up on me, it was a great moment, a special moment.”
Given the positive impact Habitat for Humanity has had on his life, Deshaun has been vocal about his support for the organization. Clemson organized opportunities for Deshaun to partner with Habitat during college, and Deshaun will likely be more involved as his NFL career kicks off.
2. His Mother, Deann, Overcame Cancer
Happy Birthday to my beautiful mother! I thank God & I thank you Mom for blessing me and raising me to become the man I am today! You always been there for your kids NO MATTER what the situation was! You're an inspiration and I truly "Adore" you! Every time I see you there's always a smile on your face and joy! You have every excuse in the world to be upset and mad but you don't. You know God got you and this family! I get my calmness and cool from you! The biggest heart on the planet! You motivate me! The advice you give me is always great and you'll never tell me wrong. You know the best is what I'm striving to be and you always push me to that! Thank you mom and "it feels good to be one of your kids" I love you & just know I got US! 💯🌟 #815
Not only did the Watsons overcome financial hardship, but Deann Watson battled cancer. She was diagnosed with stage-five tongue cancer in 2011 when Deshaun was a sophomore in high school. She ended up having to have her tongue surgically removed.
Deshaun grew up without a father but had other family members step up in their time of need.
Deann had to have treatment in Atlanta about 50 miles away from Gainesville. Sonia and Terri Watson, Deshaun’s aunt and uncle, often hosted the Watson children as his mother was getting the treatment she needed. Sonia explained to Sports Illustrated that it was Deshaun and his siblings that helped his mother persevere.
“Her [Deann Watson] family pushed her through everything. Being there for her children really gave her so much strength,” Sonia told Sports Illustrated.
As he begins his NFL career, Deshaun is finally in a position to take care of his family as he explained to the Charlotte Observer.
“That’s one of the biggest things that I’m looking forward to is being able to take care of my family, take care of my mom, make sure that she’s settled and that whatever she needs she can get, just kind of enjoying life and let her travel around,” Watson told the Charlotte Observer.
Watching his mother overcome cancer has prepared Deshaun for whatever the NFL throws his way. He spoke with Heavy about how his life experiences have helped shape him as a football player.
“You have to mature early and take full responsibility. Be disciplined in dealing with adversity in stressful times. As far as transitioning from college to the pros, I had to go from high school to college. This is no different. Just taking another step,” Deshaun told Heavy.
3. Deshaun Has Three Siblings, Two of Which Are Twins
Deshaun is the second of four children. His older brother, Detrick, is 27 years old. He recently announced on Instagram he and his significant other are expecting a baby.
Deshaun has two younger siblings, a brother and sister, who are twins. Tinisha and Tyreke are the youngest Watsons. According to the Gainesville Times, all three boys played football while Tinisha ran track.
As their mother was getting cancer treatments, it was up to Deshaun to help take care of his younger siblings. It is an experience that has made him a better football player as he explained on the Rich Eisen Show.
I’ve been in pressure situations where it was life and death. I had to take full responsibility of my family when my mom was sick…I have no father figure in my life. While I was 15 years old playing football and basketball trying to be a kid, I was also working four jobs to put food on the table with my older brother. Making sure my younger brother and sister got to school, had clothes, food and doing the things they want to do. So, I was taking care of them and making sure the household was steady.
4. He Has “815” Tattooed on Both Arms as a Reminder of the Government Housing Apartments He Grew Up in
There is an effort by the Watson family to never forget where they came from. In addition to writing “815” on his wrist bands before games, Deshaun took it a step further by making the numbers permanent. ESPN the Magazine explains the story.
He put his past in ink too. Before his sophomore season at Clemson, Watson tattooed 815 on both arms as an homage to the government housing, 815 Harrison Square, that he called home until he was 11. His family moved out in 2006 with help from Habitat for Humanity, but that first home — “the grind,” he calls it — stays with him.
The 815 stands for the address of the Harrison Square Apartments where the Watsons grew up which are located on 815 Harrison Square.
5. Deshaun’s Entire Family Attended the NFL Draft
Several of the top prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft opted not to attend the draft. Deshaun took the opposite approach by not only attending the event but inviting his extended family to Philadelphia.
“My whole family is going up, my mom, aunt, uncle, cousin, little brothers and my sister. I head up to New York on Monday and then Philly the rest of the week. That’s one reason I selected to go to Philly, because I’ve always dreamed of hearing my name called and walking across the stage, receiving that jersey, taking that picture and being able to get selected to the National Football League,” Watson told the Charlotte Observer.