Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson had a spectacular Pro Day for NFL scouts in the school’s indoor facility Thursday.
He used some advice from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to help him relax and get through a scripted, but rigorous passing workout in front of an audience that included four NFL head coaches.
“Cam is a big brother, and he’s always been there to give me advice,” Watson said. “He talks about the business and being professional. So, everything that he gives me, I listen and I pay attention.”
Watson, the former Falcons ball boy, who guided the Tigers to the 2016 national championship, has been friends with Newton for awhile.
“The relationship with me and Cam has always been tight since high school,” said Watson, who went to Gainesville High. “We talk all the time. In our communications over the past two years, we haven’t really talked football unless I asked a question, we just talked about life.”
“His advice about going through this process is to be patient. Be the best you can be. Don’t change. Be confident. ‘You’re a great player, walk around like that. You earned that right.’”
Watson was confident during his workout in front of many of his critics. He looked comfortable taking snaps from under center.
“People are going to criticize you all the time, but at the end of the day, do what you do, and at the end of the day, winning solves everything,” Watson said. “You can’t take that away from anyone. You can talk bad about their techniques, but if a guy wins, it take care of everything. All you can do is go out there and be your best and win.”
He won big for the Tigers and guided them to two national-championship games.
Watson, the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2016, completed 54 of 62 throws. Most of his dropbacks features his ability to rollout and throw on the run.
“He did great,” one AFC offensive coordinator on hand said. “He had just a couple of bad throws. One was high and one was low to his left. He was messing around and didn’t get his hips turned. He threw one 70 yards while he was damn near flat-footed.”
Some of the draft analysts don’t believe Watson can read NFL defenses.
“He’ll get it,” the coordinator said. “Guys try to make it sound too complicated. If the receiver is open, get it over there.”
An AFC personnel executive said, “He had a great day. He had great velocity on his passes. He’s ahead of where Dak Prescott was at this time last year.”
Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, a former Clemson standout, was on hand.
“I thought he looked really good,” Jarrett said. “He was very good and proved what he needed to prove. It was good to see him do well.”
Watson, who was throwing passes to wide receiver Michael Williams, wide receiver Artavis Scott and tight end Jordan Leggett, was pleased with the showing.
“It went good,” Watson said. “I wanted to show that I could do anything that they asked me to do. We’ll just kind of go from there.”
Most NFL draft analysts believe that Watson, North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky and Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer are the top quarterbacks available in the NFL draft, which is set for April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
“I’ve always been a self-critique,” Watson said. “I just have to go about my business. Stay in my own lane and stay focused.”
Watson believes that a lot of teams were impressed with his showing against Alabama in the national championship game. He took a beating from the Crimson Tide, but stayed composed enough to guide the Tigers to a thrilling 35-31 victory.
“I can deal with adversity,” Watson said. “I can manage the situations I need to manage. You know, I’m a winner. I’m a champion. That’s what I do.”
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney had glowing recommendations for Watson.
“He’s the complete package,” Swinney said. “He’s got it all. He’s a guy that Day 1, improves the chemistry. His leadership, Day 1. He changes the locker room, Day 1. He impacts free agency, Day 1. He makes everybody better, Day 1. He makes the coaches better, Day 1. He’s an unbelievable young man, and he’s very, very gifted.”
Watson trained with former NFL backup quarterback Jordan Palmer.
“He has the combination that you see in the great players, that you see in the Mannings, that you see in the Brees and Bradys and those guys,” Palmer said. “I think that’s all there. The last piece is the fact that hates losing more than anything in the world.”
Scouts from all 32 teams, including four head coaches — Detroit’s Jim Caldwell, Tennessee’s Mike Mularkey, Chicago’s John Fox and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin — were on hand. The Falcons were represented by scout Tokunbo Abanikanda.