There are a few people that can back up their talk. Through sheer will and generational talent, they can lead and inspire an entire team and fanbase.
So it was in 2014. After five straight South Carolina victories, freshman quarterback, Deshaun Watson made a pledge. That he and his team would never lose to South Carolina during his tenure as Clemson’s quarterback. It was a bold and hopeful statement.
All was going well in Watson’s freshman season until a freak accident occurred on the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium during the Tiger’s yearly meeting with Georgia Tech. Early in the game Watson rolled out, looked to pass but there were no receivers open so, he did what any good quarterback does, he made a play. During that play, he tucked the ball and ran. Then, it happened. Watson went down and it was obvious he was injured, and badly.
You could feel the deflation of hope that hung over the Clemson team and its fans. It turned out, Watson had tripped on a protruding sprinkler head. The Tigers went on to lose 28-6 to the Yellow Jackets and it was later announced Watson had sprained his knee.
The following week, the Tigers, without Watson, played a warm-up game with Georgia State before the season finale with arch rival South Carolina. Cole Stoudt led the Tigers to a comfortable 28-0 win but even after the victory, there was still serious concern as fans everywhere watched Watson amble the sidelines on crutches.
As the big game approached, there were rumors of a medical miracle. It was assumed Watson was out but unbeknownst to the college football world, the quarterback would have a chance, thanks to a supportive knee brace, to fulfill his promise, his pledge to never lose to the Gamecocks. Everyone associated with the program held their collective breathe as Watson trotted out for pregame warm-ups. Could he actually play effectively? One had to guess, “the proof would be in the pudding.”
The game, was a showcase of wonder and might. Watson led the Tigers to a 35-17 victory. His will to win and his leadership was the key on that late November Saturday. After the game it was revealed that Watson had actually played on a torn ACL. It was a truly a sight to behold.
The Tigers, without Watson, headed to Orlando to play Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Without Watson’s presence and his talent, few thought Cole Stoudt could lead the Tigers to a victory. Then, another miracle of sorts occurred.
Dabo Swinney, immediately following the South Carolina game went in search of a new quarterback coach after Chad Morris left. Enter former Clemson quarterback, Brandon Streeter. In the practices leading up to the bowl game, Streeter worked closely with Stout and it showed. Thanks to Stoudt’s transformation, under tutelage from Streeter, the “Quarterback Whisperer,” he would lead the Tigers to a 40-6 win over the Sooners in the final game of his career.
Who would ever again doubt a Deshaun Watson pledge? Throughout his three year Clemson career, he never lost to the Gamecocks. He had proven, he was a man of his word. It was a memorable game, one for the books.
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