TAMPA--There was always that ""if only'' phrase attached to Deshaun Watson's resume.
Like in his freshman season in 2014, when the 6-foot-2 inch, 210 pound QB rated by most scouting services as the No. 3 prospect in the country had a broken hand and a torn LCL shorten what had appeared to be an All American type season.
Like last season, during an unbeaten regular season, which brought his Clemson team to the CFB national championship game against Alabama. Despite throwing 4 TD passes for 405 yards, Watson couldn't do quite enough at the end of the championship game against Alabama to avoid a 45-40 loss to the Tide.
And there just wasn't enough in his regular season resume to move Watson higher than 3rd place in the Heisman Trophy race.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]]
And like this season in which Watson was even more productive on offense, throwing 47 TD passes, but also getting picked off 17 times in bumpy year in which Clemson almost lost a few games against lesser competition, Watson wasn't even regarded as the best QB in his own division in the ACC, finishing as a runner up to Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.
But in the world of college football, there are almost always second chances and sometimes more than that. All of that worked in Clemson and Watson's favor on Monday night in a rematch of last season's national championship battle with Alabama.
All Watson did was bring Clemson from the brink of another broken dream season, not once, but twice in the final minutes, including a 2-yard TD pass to Hunter Renfrow with 1 seconds left which was the final game changer in the Tigers' 35-31 win over the Tide for their first national championship since 1981.
What made this feat even more remarkable was that Watson had given the Tigers a 28-24 lead by putting together a 6 play, 88 yard scoring drive, giving Clemson its first lead of the game with 4:08 remaining.
Watson, who had been mistake prone throughout a regular season, was nearly perfect in both drives.
The only problem with that first drive was that Watson and the Tigers did it too quickly and left Alabama and freshman QB Jalen Hurts TOO much time for a recovery as Alabama regained the lead at 31-28.
No problem, Watson told his teammates when they began their final march on their own 32 yard line with 2:01 remaining. "I told them, let's be legendary, let's be great,'' said Watson, who has been both in his three seasons at Clemson, which will now send him to the National Football League next fall. "I said, don't panic, it's gonna be special. it's gonna be great. We're built for times like this, so let's go finish it.''
Watson and Clemson did that with skill and confidence and coolness, which has been part of his profile since he first arrived on the Clemson campus in January 2014.. ""We worked so hard for it,'' said Watson, who leaves Clemson with a 32-3 record and finished the evening with 420 yards and 4 TDs, including a stunning 825 yards and 8 TDS against Alabama in two national championship games.
When he came to Clemson he had some dreams which were clouded with disappointment. He leaves with a national championship and memories which will linger for a life time.
'"He is the best player in the country,''said Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney, making it clear the Heisman voters had made the wrong choice not once, but perhaps twice.
""I was just in my zone, just at peace,'' said Watson of the final moments of the game and of his collegiate career, making it clear that he had finally reached the summit.[/membership]