“I root for this kid. He’s best when the lights are brightest. That’s the biggest compliment you can give a quarterback. Watch both Alabama tapes and tell me this kid can’t play friggin’ ball.” –– Mike Mayock, NFL Sports Analyst
HOUSTON- In an unprecedented move the Houston Texans selected Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson – the first Black quarterback ever picked by the Texans in the history of the franchise.
In interviews, an emotional Watson is looking forward to coming to Houston and being a Texan.
“It’s amazing,” Watson said on the ESPN broadcast. “I tell myself not to cry but can’t hold it back. Now I’m finally being introduced into the National Football League. It’s a blessing, but I worked for it.”
This sets the stage for more history to be made when the franchise rolls him out for the first time as the team’s face of the franchise.
Watson, who helped guide the Clemson Tigers to a National Championship in 2016, said he’ll blend in well with the Texans.
“I knew it was a possibility,” Watson said. “But I didn’t know it was going to happen like this. To trade up like they did and believe in me, it’s amazing. It’s hard to even talk about. I’m so stoked. It’s so surreal. It’s a blessing.”
Lighting Strikes Twice
Lightning does not often strike twice and the Texans obviously decided that this time they would catch lightning in a bottle rather than miss a second opportunity to capitalize on great Black quarterback talent.
In 2006, the Houston Texans passed on selecting a top Black quarterback with their number one pick in the NFL Draft and passed on Houstonian and hometown favorite Vince Young in favor of Defensive End Mario Williams.
Young, who quarterbacked the National Championship Texas Longhorns in later went onto a stellar career with the Tennessee Titans. He, like Watson, made history by leading his team to BCS National Championship against the defending BCS national champion USC Trojans in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
In his rookie season, Young was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team as a reserve. In 2009, Young earned his second Pro Bowl selection and was named Sporting News NFL Comback Player of the Year.
Watson Football Resume
His stats reveal the awesome potential to lead a team to the promised land.
The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist took the Clemson program to another level, resulting in the school’s first national championship in more than 30 years.
Starting five games as a true freshman and winning four (14 touchdowns against just two interceptions), the 2013 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year immediately showed he belonged, even though he had to have surgery on a torn ACL after the season.
In his sophomore season, Watson led his team to the National Championship (4,104 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns; 1,105 rushing yards, including 12 scores) and won the Davey O’Brien and Payton Manning Awards as the nation’s top quarterback.
Watson didn’t take home as much hardware in 2016, but he still led Clemson to a national title while garnering second-team All-American honors (4,593 yards, 41 TDs, 17 INTs, 67.0 completion pct; 629 yards, nine TDs rushing.
Texans Coach Bill O’Brien expressed his confidence in the pick and believes the Texans did the right thing trading up to get Watson.
“As a rookie quarterback it’s a big jump,” O’Brien said. “Tom (Savage) is our starter and Deshaun will come in and he’s going to work hard and we’re going to teach him and feed him a lot of information, and he’ll work at it.”
According to O’Brien, Watson was impressive demonstrating the ability to learn plays and teach the plays back to the coaching staff.
General Manger Rick Smith too was impressed with Watson.
“It meant something to me, too, when he came to our building and I watched him sit and talk for 30 minutes with different players,” Smith said. “Players would continue to come up to the table and talk to him and be engaged. It seemed to me to be a really good fit and solidified what I thought about the young man.”
Black Quarterback Firsts
Watson may be making history as the first Black quarterback to suit up with the Texans, but James Harris was the real trailblazer who paved the way for Deshaun Watson to hold that Texan jersey up today.
According to NFL history and an article in the New Yorker, Football’s Quiet Farewell to James Harris, March 13, 2015 by Samuel G. Freedman, James Harris is the first black man to regularly start as quarterback for an N.F.L. team and who was also part of the first wave of black executives in the league.
Harris went to Grambling State University, a historically black school, to play quarterback under the legendary head coach Eddie Robinson.
He was snubbed in the 1969 pro draft, ending up as an eighth-round pick.
Harris later won the starting job for the Buffalo Bills and made history as a rookie by becoming the first black quarterback to start a season opener.
He was waived by Buffalo after three years, seemingly ending his career, but found a place on the roster of the Los Angeles Rams.
In 1974, Harris led the team to a division title and a playoff win; he topped the conference in passing efficiency and was chosen as M.V.P. of the Pro Bowl.
Before the next season, in 1975, Sport magazine put Harris on its cover with the headline “Will James Harris Be The First ______* To Play Quarterback In The Super Bowl?” It never materialized. Doug Williams would do it twelve years later, with the Washington Redskins.
According to the report, the Rams’ front office overruled its head coach, Chuck Knox, and over the course of several seasons brought in no fewer than four quarterbacks—Ron Jaworski, Pat Haden, Joe Namath, Vince Ferragamo—to try to unseat Harris, despite his 21—6 record as a starter. Finally, in 1977, the Rams shipped Harris to San Diego, where he finished his athletic career, in 1981.
Ozzie Newsome, former NFL star and now the Baltimore Ravens general manager, commented about Harris in 2015 stating, “He was an outstanding player who broke barriers in the league for all African Americans.”
Since Watson, the NFL has seen the likes of many past and present great black quarterbacks including Warren Moon, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Russell Wilson Daunte Culpepper, Randall Cunningham, Michael VickCam Newton, Doug Williams, Kordell Stewart, Vince Young, Colin Kaepernick, Vince Evans, Frederick “Fritz” Pollard and James Harris.
Closing Thoughts- Ready To Go
Now it’s Watson’s turn to shine and he believes he is ready to step in and make is case to be one of the great black quarterbacks to ever play the game.
“My personality and the way I carried myself was just a great fit for the team,” Watson said. “I just can’t wait to get down there and get to work.”
They are listed in order of the date of each player’s first start at quarterback for the Texans.
|2015||Brian Hoyer (9) / Ryan Mallett (4) / T. J. Yates (2) / Brandon Weeden (1)|
|2016||Brock Osweiler (14) / Tom Savage (2)|
|2003||David Carr (11) / Tony Banks (3) / Dave Ragone (2)|
|2006||David Carr (16)|
|2005||David Carr (16)|
|2004||David Carr (16)|
|2002||David Carr (16)|
|2011||Matt Schaub (10) / T. J. Yates (5) / Matt Leinart (1)|
|2008||Matt Schaub (11) / Sage Rosenfels (5)|
|2007||Matt Schaub (11) / Sage Rosenfels (5)|
|2012||Matt Schaub (16)|
|2010||Matt Schaub (16)|
|2009||Matt Schaub (16)|
|2013||Matt Schaub (8) / Case Keenum (8)|
|2014||Ryan Fitzpatrick (12) / Ryan Mallett (2) / Case Keenum (2)|
*Source for Quarterback list – Houston Texans and Wikepedia.