Al­though a quick study as a QB, De­shaun Wat­son is will­ing to wait his turn.

De­shaun Wat­son has a his­tory of emerg­ing fast, but he knows he must wait his chance

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Aaronn Wil­son aaron.wil­son@chron.com twit­ter.com/aaron­wilson_nfl

De­shaun Wat­son al­ways has been an un­usu­ally pre­co­cious quar­ter­back.

As a fresh­man at Clem­son, he de­liv­ered a touch­down pass dur­ing a road game at Ge­or­gia on just the sixth snap of his col­le­giate ca­reer as he over­took starter Cole Stoudt.

As a high school fresh­man at Gainesville High School in Ge­or­gia, Wat­son was named the starter and threw three touch­down passes in his first var­sity game. He wound up go­ing 10-2 as a starter with 2,088 yards, 17 touch­down passes, 569 rush­ing yards and five touch­down runs.

The path to the Tex­ans’ start­ing job may not come as quickly, though, for the firstround draft pick and na­tional cham­pi­onship win­ner from Clem­son.

Tex­ans coach Bill O’Brien has in­stalled vet­eran Tom Sav­age as the starter with­out hold­ing a com­pe­ti­tion with Wat­son or backup Bran­don Wee­den.

For now, the plan is for Wat­son to learn be­hind Sav­age and gain some sea­son­ing be­fore the Tex­ans con­sider chang­ing his sta­tus.

As much as he’s ea­ger to play and con­trib­ute, it’s a blue­print that Wat­son is on board with while be­ing coached by O’Brien, a for­mer New Eng­land of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and quar­ter­backs coach for Tom Brady.

“It’s best for the team,” Wat­son said Fri­day while host­ing a shop­ping event for the South­east Fal­cons at Dick’s Sport­ing Goods in Friendswood. “Coach OB knows a lot of foot­ball. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL his­tory in Tom Brady. He knows how ev­ery­thing is op­er­ated. He knows when the per­fect tim­ing will be. He knows when it’s right and when it’s wrong.

“So, I’m fol­low­ing their foot­steps. I’m the rookie and I re­ally don’t know no bet­ter, so I’m just kind of go­ing with the flow, learn­ing from the vets, learn­ing from the coach­ing staff. When­ever he calls my name, I’ll make sure I’m pre­pared and go out and per­form.”

‘I’m start­ing from ground zero’

A Heis­man Tro­phy fi­nal­ist, Davey O’Brien and Man­ning Award win­ner as well as claim­ing an ESPY last week for Best Male Col­lege Ath­lete, Wat­son has a proven track record of ex­ceed­ing ini­tial ex­pec­ta­tions. In high school and col­lege, Wat­son emerged as the starter al­most im- me­di­ately.

“That just kind of came nat­u­ral,” Wat­son said. “I’ve been play­ing foot­ball my whole life. Coaches felt like I was pre­pared and ready and they wanted me in there, so I just took ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity and didn’t look back.

“This is a whole new level. I’m start­ing from ground zero. If it hap­pens, it hap­pens. If it doesn’t, I’ll play my role well and sup­port the team.”

Throw­ing that first touch­down pass against an ag­gres­sive blitz pack­age against Ge­or­gia made a last­ing im­pres­sion on Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney. It was the spring­board to a ca­reer that in­cluded 83 ca­reer touch­down passes in three sea­sons be­fore declar­ing early for the draft.

“That was the first time we ex­pe­ri­enced how spe­cial De­shaun was,” Swin­ney said. “It was a re­ally ex­otic blitz, very dan­ger­ous. If we didn’t get into the right pro­tec­tion and call, it could be a big-time

sack and free hit on the quar­ter­back. We couldn’t be­lieve he could do that as a true fresh­man. That was a sign that this young man was dif­fer­ent and one of the spe­cial ones.”

Wat­son fin­ished his col­lege ca­reer with 9,201 passing yards and rushed for 1,744 yards and 21 scores. Prior to en­rolling early at Clem­son, Wat­son set Ge­or­gia high school state records with 17,134 yards of to­tal of­fense and 218 touch­downs.

Wat­son has made a good first im­pres­sion on the Tex­ans’ coach­ing staff, es­pe­cially O’Brien, who’s op­er­at­ing as the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor af­ter the team parted ways with Ge­orge God­sey af­ter last sea­son.

Wat­son puts in over­time, haunt­ing the Tex­ans’ film room and weight room on days off to make sure he’s pre­pared.

“He’s do­ing good,” O’Brien said. “For a rookie com­ing in here, he’s spent a lot of time. He’s study­ing hard. He has great ques­tions. He has good an­swers to the ques­tions when we kind of quiz them ev­ery morn­ing. I’ve been im­pressed with all three guys. It’s a good room and he’s work­ing hard.”

‘A once-in-a-life­time player’

In con­sec­u­tive na­tional cham­pi­onship games against Alabama, Wat­son passed for a com­bined 825 yards with seven touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion. He de­liv­ered the game-win­ning touch­down pass in the fi­nal sec­onds to cap his col­lege ca­reer in the BCS na­tional ti­tle game.

“He was spe­cial, a once-in-a-life­time player and per­son,” Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said. “He was self-mo­ti­vated with a ter­rific work ethic. You could tell foot­ball was one of his main pri­or­i­ties in his life. He was so coach­able, just wanted it so bad.

“It was amaz­ing what he did be­hind the scenes to be good. He’s what coaches call a ‘film hound.’ He goes hunting for film. He can’t watch enough. He is an ex­tremely fast learner. The Tex­ans got them­selves a good one. He’s the type of kid that can take the Tex­ans fran­chise a step higher.”

Com­pet­ing against the Tex­ans’ topranked de­fense dur­ing mini­camps and or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties, Wat­son got a glimpse of the in­creased speed of the game and the quick ad­just­ments he’ll need to make to di­ag­nose de­fen­sive schemes de­signed to con­fuse him.

“Ev­ery­one can run at this level,” Wat­son said. “Ev­ery­one is smart. Ev­ery­one watches film. Ev­ery­one is ath­letic. You have to ap­proach the game dif­fer­ently. You can’t take a play off at this level. If you do, you will get smoked.”

Wat­son is lis­ten­ing closely to Sav­age and Wee­den on how to con­duct him­self in the NFL. It hasn’t been as steep a learn­ing curve for Wat­son as some rook­ies be­cause he ar­rives with a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence.

“How to be a pro­fes­sional quar­ter­back, how to ap­proach ev­ery day like it could be your last, hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to go out and sup­port ev­ery­one,” Wat­son said when asked what he has learned from the older quar­ter­backs on the ros­ter. “There’s no neg­a­tive en­ergy in that locker room or at that po­si­tion group. We all sup­port each other.”

Trevon Conic, right, gets a bit of shoe buy­ing ad­vice from Tex­ans rookie quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son dur­ing a shop­ping spree Fri­day in Friendswood.

Wat­son passes out $150 gift cards to mem­bers of the South­east Fal­cons youth foot­ball team Fri­day at Dick’s Sport­ing Goods.

ck De­shaun Wat­son dur­ing a shop­ping spree Fri­day in Friendswood.

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