HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson is doing things that no rookie quarterback has done in the NFL since Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton in the 1960s.
Most everyone is wowed by what Watson is doing for the Houston Texans. Everyone, that is, except Watson himself.
“It was a matter of time before somebody … was going to do it,” he said. “So why not me?”
Since taking over at quarterback for the Texans at halftime of the season opener against Jacksonville, the 12th overall pick in the draft has shown an innate ability to make and extend plays and get his teammates to rally around him.
What he lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in confidence and that, his teammates say, is one of the biggest reasons Houston’s offense is performing as never before.
“He has the pedigree to be great,” receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “And just the adjustments that he can make on the field, going on the sideline, going out and correcting it, I haven’t had that in a while.”
Indeed, Hopkins and the Texans have suffered through a revolving door at quarterback over the past few years.
And after dealing with the fiasco that was Houston’s failed $72 million Brock Osweiler experiment last season, a confident playmaker such as Watson is a welcome change.
He threw for 283 yards with four touchdown passes and ran for another score as the Texans set a franchise record by scoring 57 points in a trouncing of the Titans on Sunday to become the first rookie since Tarkenton in 1961 to have at least four TD passes with a running score in a game.
He’s the only rookie in NFL history with seven touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns in his team’s first four games, and his five TDs on Sunday were the second most by a rookie in league history behind the six Hall of Famer Gale Sayers scored in 1965.
Watson, who won a national championship at Clemson last season, was selected as the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his work on Sunday.
But he knows he’ll have to take another step this week with the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs visiting on Sunday night.
“It’s a cool honor, but I can’t settle for it. Can’t settle for it,” he said. “Always have to make sure that (I’m) improving and trying to be the best player because you’re only as good as your next game.”
Those who have seen Watson develop since his days at Clemson have enjoyed his early success in the NFL, but they aren’t surprised by it.
“That thing he was doing on Sunday is the same thing he was doing out there on our practice field,” Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant said. “Ain’t nothing new to me.”
Houston receiver Bruce Ellington was with the San Francisco 49ers earlier this year when Watson visited the team in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft. It didn’t take long for him to come to a conclusion about the quarterback.
“Just hearing him talk and the things he talked about I felt like we needed to get him,” Ellington said. “Luckily I came here and I’m with him now.”
Ask player after player about Watson and they’ll say much of the same things. You’ll repeatedly hear “he’s a winner” and “he brings a swagger to the offense,” and running back Lamar Miller supplied perhaps the best compliment after the Titans game when he said Watson “makes me want to play even harder to get the win.”
Watson has belief in his talent and ability that comes across in his every action. He seems perplexed when asked if he’s surprised about what he’s done so far.
“Not at all. Not really. This is what I’ve been dreaming for,” he said. “I’m a confident player. I’m a confident person, so I feel like I can play at this level. I’m just going to continue to try to do that each and every week.”
And he’s not just an imposing presence on the field, he’s just as commanding off it. Watson made headlines last week when he donated his first game check to three women who worked in the stadium’s cafeteria who were affected by Hurricane Harvey.
He’s also beginning to gain momentum among the NFL’s fashion elite for his flashy pregame ensembles. He often opts for more classic styles and is fond of bowties and the ubiquitous red-soled shoes by designer Christian Louboutin.
But on Sunday he stepped out of the fashion box with an outfit designed entirely by Gucci. The look included a linen T-shirt with a bee applique and an interestingly low neckline set off by two sparkling diamond necklaces that rested on his bare collarbone, army green slacks rolled up at the cuff and white sneakers adorned with touches of the signature Gucci red and green. He set off the entire look with a camouflage bandanna tied around his forehead.
He Instagrammed a picture of the look and it received more than 82,000 likes and 1,000 comments, including words of approval from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who has long been known for his style. Watson said he and Newton have known each other since high school so he wasn’t surprised that he co-signed on his look.
“He’s like a big brother to me,” Watson said. “I learned from the best and eventually I’ll be on his level. But … just try to show the world the type of person that I am, that I’m open, out and free to be able to show my personality and the style I have.”
And he expects to keep proving that he’s the long-term solution at his position for a franchise that has been dogged by quarterback woes for much of its short history.
As he continues to pile up touchdowns and the accolades that come with such performances, coach Bill O’Brien is quick to point out that the best thing about Watson can’t found on a box score.
“He’s a great teammate,” O’Brien said. “He really understands what his role is. He’s the exact opposite of a selfish person. He’s all about the team and really all he cares about is winning.”
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli contributed to this report.