Swinney on Deshaun Watson: He's a Winner and a Killer

Zach Lentz

CLEMSON — Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is in the midst of his third year in the NFL, and is making his former head coach look more and more like a prophet with each passing week.

"He's humble, the same guy every day, and always ready," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said before the 2017 NFL Draft. "He comes to every meeting prepared. That's how you change things, you change the culture, through — for me it's through discipline and recruiting, staffing and all that stuff. For them, it's decision-making, it's who you pick. 

"And I'm just telling you: They (the Cleveland Browns) pass on Deshaun Watson, they're passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don't know what the heck I'm talking about, I'm just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot."

That same analogy was given by Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.

 You see Michael Jordan, you see some of the great athletic plays in any sport, you've got to tip your hat to the guy," Gruden said. "We had him three times, and then he makes an unbelievable throw and the kid makes a great catch.

"If you've watched Watson play, we're not the first team he's gotten. He's a spectacular player. He wills it out of his team, and he makes something out of nothing, and he did a lot again today, and I credit him. It's a credit to him. The quarterback. Couldn't catch him. The guy made a lot of plays. You've got to tip your hat to Watson. He was awesome. Doggone Watson." 

After Watson's current team, the Houston Texans, played the Jacksonville Jaguars in London last week, Watson called Swinney to share another unique bit of history — the player that he hurdled in last Sunday's game, was the same player he hurdled in the 2017 national championship game, Ronnie Harrison.

"This is amazing. This is unbelievable," Swinney said. "I get at text from Deshaun on Sunday and he sent me a picture of him hurdling a dude. You remember in the natty when he hurdled a dude and they called him out at the pylon and he scores the next play? Well he sends me that picture, and then under it he sent me a picture of him hurdling the Jaguar player, and they called him out at the pylon and he scores the on the next play.

"And he's like, same end zone, same side of the end zone, same guy. And I picked up the phone and called him and I was like, 'What? That was not the same guy.' And he goes, 'Oh yeah same guy from Alabama.' It was crazy. Little history repeating itself. He thought that pretty cool to send that to me. He's doing great, proud of him."

Swinney was asked if he still stands by his Michael Jordan comparison for Deshaun Watson, and while he still believes that his comparison holds true, he admits that it may have put Watson in a difficult position.

A position that he had to apologize for.

"Listen, the whole Jordan thing came about — listen sometimes I say things and y'all know that, I'm in the moment," Swinney said. "The whole Jordan thing came about because the Bulls had the No. 3 pick when they took Jordan and the Bears had the No. 3 pick. That's the only reason that came up. It just kind of took on a life of its own.

"I just meant he's a winner and a killer like Michael Jordan. I didn't mean he's Michael Jordan. I mean, he's got a will to win that is rare. And you only see that every now and then. And when I think of that, I think of Jordan, who would claw your eyeballs out to win. He's just a winner and that's what Deshaun is ... I had to call Deshaun and say hey man sorry I put you in this position."

In His Own Words: The time Swinney met Michael Jordan:

"One time. But he doesn’t know me. I’d love to meet Michael Jordan, like, today’s version of Dabo where he might actually go, ‘Aren’t you that coach from Clemson?’ I met him on my bachelor party. Yeah. So. It was a clean bachelor party," Swinney said. "I was a GA at Alabama and he was playing for the Birmingham Barons. And so I had gone up a couple times to watch him play baseball with the Birmingham Barons, which was really cool. And he had bought the team a bus and those AA guys were riding around in style and I was disappointed that he had retired. I was like, I just couldn’t believe it. It was like ‘What are we doing here?’ It was like when Barry Sanders retired. ‘Like, what is going on?’ But he’s going to play baseball, but it happens at the Barons. And I’m 40 minutes from the Barons and I’m from Birmingham. So he played at the Hoover Met and I got to see him play a couple times there."

But my bachelor party, all my buddies, sometime in July (we got married July 9) we went to Birmingham and we hung out. They ended up taking us to, I want to say it was called Jitterbugs. It was a little dance club at the Holiday Inn off of Green Springs Highway exit there, Birmingham. And so you know, we’re just hanging out and my brother (is there). So we go to Jitterbugs. But I’ll never forget it, when we were walking up, there was this car parked right at the front door and it had like, MJ 23. Like a Mercedes or something. I have a picture of it actually.

"But I remember going in, I’m like, ‘Michael Jordan’s in here?!’ So some of the Barons were in this little dance place — just a bar dance club. So we all go in there and I’m looking. I’m trying to (find him). Sure enough, I saw him in the back. He’s in the back bar area and he’s like this high (taller) over everybody else at the place and I’m like, ‘I’m going to meet Michael Jordan.’ And I did.

"So I walk back there, and he’s just kind of — I just walk, I say hey, I introduced myself, I said ‘Hey, I’m a coach at Alabama’ and just always admired you and just wanted to say hey. And he was super nice. And I didn’t ask him for a picture. I didn’t want to do that, but my buddies had the camera (ready) … you know the roll? You know you roll it … they were waiting. And as soon as I kind of got over there, they, took a picture. So I got a picture. He’s looking and I’m like (making a goofy face). So that’s the only time I met Michael Jordan. Maybe that’ll happen one of these days. That would be awesome. He’s the best."