The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY JEF­FREY COLLINS

as well — two dis­ap­point­ing blows to a driven com­peti­tor like Wat­son.

Though his losses weren’t caused as much by a slide in his own play as Jack­son’s re­mark­able sea­son.

Wat­son’s 2016 stats are sim­i­lar to his 2015 num­bers in al­most ev­ery cat­e­gory. He has thrown two more in­ter­cep­tions in two fewer games, but he also has thrown just four fewer passes so far this year than in 2015 for the Tigers (12-1, No. 2 CFP)

Swin­ney said the Heis­man Tro­phy has been wa­tered down as vot­ers get swayed by the player who sud­denly bursts on the scene and misses out on play­ers like Wat­son, who are con­sis­tently good over a ca­reer.

“I think De­shaun is so good, peo­ple are numb to it,” Swin­ney said.

Both Wat­son and Swin­ney say they aren’t knock­ing Jack­son’s tal­ent and they un­der­stand how he won. But un­like Jack­son, who only has the Cit­rus Bowl against LSU left be­fore his sea­son ends, Wat­son hopes to be play two more games and achieve the ul­ti­mate goal he had when ar­riv­ing Clem­son from Gainesville, Ge­or­gia.

“You could put the na­tional cham­pi­onship tro­phy and the Heis­man, he wouldn’t think twice about which one to pick, Swin­ney said

The cham­pi­onship is what Wat­son would talk about when he used his key to un­lock Clem­son’s in­door prac­tice fa­cil­ity late at night and throw balls to re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing re­ceiver Mike Wil­liams dur­ing the off­sea­son.

“He knows he is the best player in the coun­try. He doesn’t need a tro­phy to say that,” Wil­liams said.

And while the vot­ers might have re­jected Wat­son, the peo­ple who know foot­ball will val­i­date his tal­ent when he en­ters the NFL draft, Clem­son coof­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jeff Scott said.

“As soon as this sea­son is over, the scouts, GMs, head coaches and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors will start speak­ing with De­shaun and he is go­ing to go straight back to the top,” Scott said.

Swin­ney said Wat­son showed his lead­er­ship by tak­ing full ad­van­tage of the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a two time Heis­man Tro­phy fi­nal­ist without let­ting the third place fin­ish in 2015 and the sec­ond place fin­ish in 2016 get to him.

“I’m sure he’s dis­ap­pointed. But he hasn’t ex­pressed that at all,” Swin­ney said.

Wat­son said he is proud of his ca­reer no mat­ter how the next game (or two) turns out. He wore this year’s ACC cham­pi­onship hat to dur­ing in­ter­views on Mon­day and is aware of how he took a Clem­son team on the cusp of be­ing a na­tional con­tender to join Alabama as the only back-to-back play­off teams. The Tigers also won two straight ACC ti­tles for the first time in 28 sea­sons.

Wat­son has the same cool de­meanor re­spond­ing to ques­tions about what his col­lege ca­reer will mean without a na­tional ti­tle as he has had about not win­ning the Heis­man. But his quiet words point out how much a fourth loss of his col­lege ca­reer will hurt.

“I’ve al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced not get­ting it — felt how big that was,” Wat­son said.

CLEM­SON, S.C. | Clem­son quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son be­lieves he is the best player in the coun­try no mat­ter what the Heis­man Tro­phy vot­ers say.

Wat­son fin­ished sec­ond in the Heis­man Tro­phy vot­ing to Louisville QB La­mar Jack­son. Jack­son’s rise also meant Wat­son did not re­peat even as first team All-At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence quar­ter­back.

Clem­son coach Dabo Swin­ney agrees with Wat­son that he should have won the Heis­man Tro­phy.

Swin­ney said Heis­man vot­ers likely were numbed by Wat­son’s amaz­ing play over three years.

The quar­ter­back is ex­cited that his chief goal in col­lege — win­ning the na­tional cham­pi­onship — is still out there.

The Tigers (12-1, No. 2 CFP) play Ohio State in the Fi­esta Bowl on Dec. 31 in the semi­fi­nals of the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off.

Wat­son, his coach and his team­mates think the vot­ers for the Heis­man and the all-con­fer­ence teams got it wrong when it comes to the Cle­mons QB.

“I’m the best player in the coun­try. That’s how I think. That’s how I feel. Peo­ple have their own way of vot­ing,” Wat­son said Mon­day as Clem­son wraps up its first week of prac­tice be­fore play­ing Ohio State.

Wat­son fin­ished sec­ond in the Heis­man Tro­phy vot­ing this year, one spot bet­ter than 2015. But Jack­son won the award, and knocked Wat­son out of first-team At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence quar­ter­back


Clem­son quar­ter­back De­shaun Wat­son may have fin­ished sec­ond in the Heis­man Tro­phy vot­ing, but he be­lieves he’s the best player in the coun­try, no mat­ter what the vot­ers say.

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