Alabama Football: Deshaun Watson’s advice to Jalen Hurts will help Tide


After last season’s national championship, Clemson’s quarterback Deshaun Watson gave Alabama football’s Jalen Hurts some advice that could help his future.

Sometimes, sports fans forget that a rivalry may mean much more to them than it does to the players. A grudge match or revenge game may make sense to the fan who wept like a small child after a previous loss, but the players see it as something that is left on the field.

There are also times when greatness sees himself in the rising youth and wants to help it grow, even if that youth plays for the other team.

Such is the case of Deshaun Watson, who made one of his last acts as a college quarterback was to take kindly to Alabama football’s freshman QB Jalen Hurts.

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Chris Low of ESPN reported that it was actually Hurts who approached Watson for advice. Hurts said, “I called to congratulate him and find out how he bounced back […] He lost it and came back and won it.”

The year before, it was Watson on the outside looking in on the Alabama football party. Watson completed 30 of 47 pass attempts for 405 yards and four touchdowns. He even carried the ball 20 times for 73 yards. Watson’s efforts were for not, as the Clemson Tigers fell short of winning the national championship by only five points.

The following year, once again in the national championship, Watson came back with a full heart and overcame the beast known as Alabama football, winning by only four points. Watson completed 36 of 56 pass attempts for 420 yards and three touchdowns.

It wasn’t just the production that Watson gave Clemson, it was his leadership. Football is the ultimate team sport, and a good quarterback can only be a great quarterback if he’s willing to inspire his teammates.

The alpha wolf hunts in a pack, and the pack is happiest when they feed together.

When Hurts asked Watson how he could do the same, coming back after a heart-breaking loss, Hurts said, “He told me to be fearless and go get it […] He recognized the dog mentality in me, the ‘it’ factor in me. That’s how we compare and, I think, the reason we connected.”

Watson never had to do that. He could have kept the secret to himself. He could have said no to an opposing player, bound to play against Watson’s alma mater again someday. By helping Hurts find the ‘dog’ within him, Watson inspired a man about to possibly dash the hopes and dreams of Watson’s former teammates.

Yet, Watson likely doesn’t see it that way.

Watson believes that being the alpha dog means paying back to others who wish to walk the path. This is the same man who was drafted 12th overall by the Houston Texans and was owed a huge first paycheck only to then donate it to cafeteria workers affected by the local hurricane disaster. When people bust their butts to improve themselves, even in the face of hardships, a leader responds with help and guidance.

Watson must have felt that Hurts was worthy.

Hurts’ game could easily fit with how Watson ran both Clemson and Houston. Hurts has always had the legs, both this season and last season, but it is his new-found presence in the pocket that has some people making the comparison between the two QBs.

In the last game against Clemson, Hurts threw 31 times and only completed 13 attempts. Much of his reads were safe, looking tentative to throw when he could secure the ball and run for as many yards as he could. He looked the same way against Auburn in the last Iron Bowl. Some of that timidity comes from the offensive coordinators, but Watson’s words are at odds with just accepting the playcalling.

Sometimes, being fearless means trusting in one’s abilities to read defenses and making the right calls with or without the coach’s advice. It doesn’t mean to play with reckless abandon, but it does mean to take care of one’s teammates regardless of the fear of failure.

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Even with the loss to Auburn this season, Hurts’ numbers look like he has listened to Watson’s advice. Hurts’ quarterback rating is 157.1, much higher than last season’s 139.1. He has only one interception, compared to the nine that he threw last year, even though his yards per pass attempt average has gone up from 7.3 yards to 9.0 yards.

The numbers and the naked eye test agree that Hurts is spending more time in the pocket, moving through his passing progressions, and trying to throw the ball further down the field in order to dictate the play.

Is there ice in Hurts’ veins? Maybe or maybe not. Yet, whatever is, Watson, a former Clemson Tiger, had a hand in putting it there. It’s one thing for young players trying to emulate older players whom they respect a great deal; it’s another for the older player to want to help the youth, especially one who may have a hand in his former school’s demise.

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By helping Hurts, Watson may have had a hand in Clemson not winning the national championship. However, don’t expect Watson to regret it any time soon. In his mind, it was the right thing to do to give back to the game that has given him so much. Clemson and Alabama football should thank Watson for being a great football player and an even greater man.