Deshaun Watson’s first trip to New York City is for a pretty special occasion.
Clemson’s star quarterback, who won the Davey O’Brien Award on Thursday night, is one of three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, joining Alabama running back Derrick Henry and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
Watson’s guaranteed a top-three finish, making him the highest finisher in Clemson history. He’s hoping to bring college football’s most recognizable trophy home.
“It means the world. It’s been one of my goals. It would be great to win it, not for me but for my family and Clemson University,” Watson said. “I’m always representing not just my teammates, but the entire university. I hope to represent Clemson well and do my best.”
Before flying to New York on Friday morning, Watson, McCaffrey and Henry spent Thursday in Atlanta at the College Football Awards show.
Watson said it was a good opportunity for the three to bond and learn more about each other.
“I talked to Derrick and Christian this week and we’re building our relationship,” Watson said. “I’ve watched those guys, especially Christian, because once our game was over he was playing. I’ve seen Derrick a lot and I watched him in high school a lot. It’s been nice to meet them.”
Henry and McCaffrey have also seen Watson play and came away impressed by what they saw.
“He’s a great player,” Henry said. “He does a great job for his team. He can throw the ball and run the ball, so he’s a really good player.”
McCaffrey added that, “All the time you can flip on the TV and watch him. He’s a human highlight reel, so it’s a lot of fun watching him play.”
All three players have a case for the trophy. Henry’s the favorite after rushing for an SEC-record 1,986 yards and 23 touchdowns. McCaffrey has surpassed Barry Sanders’ record for most single season all-purpose yards in college football history with 3,496. Watson’s undefeated and has thrown for 3,512 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney joined Watson in Atlanta and will be with him during Saturday’s Heisman presentation. Swinney believes Watson should win the award, but no matter the outcome, he’s excited for the trip.
“I’m pumped. I’ve never sniffed the Heisman presentation,” Swinney joked. “I think that’s probably another sign of where our program has come, the fact that some of these guys are getting recognition that they deserve. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a blast. Deshaun’s never been to New York. I can’t wait to experience that whole deal with him.”
Saturday will cap a busy four-day stretch for Watson, who had an exam on Wednesday, spent Thursday in Atlanta, flew to New York early Friday morning and will experience the Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night.
“My thoughts are just to enjoy it and just have fun, whatever happens. The Heisman doesn’t define me. If I lose, I’ll still enjoy the moment and embrace it,” Watson said. “It’s been pretty busy but fun at the same time. Later on down the line in my career, I’ll be talking about moments like this and what I went through.”
Heisman Trophy ceremony
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Downtown Athletic Club, New York
Voters: 929 eligible electors: 870 media voters spread throughout the country; 58 former Heisman winners; and a fan vote determined by a public process.
Odds: Derrick Henry 1-6; Christian McCaffrey 4-1; and Deshaun Watson 16-1
Heisman Trophy finalists
Alabama, RB, Junior
KEY STAT: Set SEC record with with 1,986 yards rushing and had nation’s best 23 touchdowns.
COMMENT: He carried Alabama to the SEC title – literally. He had 90 runs combined in Alabama’s last two games.
Stanford, RB, Sophomore
KEY STAT: Broke Barry Sanders’ NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season with 3,496.
COMMENT: He is all about elusiveness and versatility. He would be Stanford’s second winner, joining Jim Plunkett in 1970.
Clemson, QB, Sophomore
KEY STAT: Only player in country who surpassed 800 yards rushing (887) and 3,500 yards passing (3,512).
COMMENT: Fits the mold of recent Heisman winners such as Cam Newton and RGIII. He would be Clemson’s first winner.