- The Texans QB talks about his rookie season, the ACL injury that ended it, and where he is in his recovery
The AFC South has changed dramatically since Deshaun Watson last took a snap for the Texans. After he tore his ACL in practice following a 22-touchdown October, the Jaguars staked their claim as an AFC power with a run to the conference title game. Meanwhile, the Titans hired Houston defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as their next head coach, and the Colts are expected to bring in Patriots OC Josh McDaniels after the Super Bowl.
But over the weekend, Watson wasn't thinking about any of that. Amidst a months-long rehab process, he spent a few days hanging out with this year’s draft class at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. It was a reminder of how far he's come since going through that process himself a year ago, but also a chance to put football back on his mind. During a few down minutes, Watson talked to Sports Illustrated about his first season and what lies ahead.
SI: What was the biggest adjustment for you coming into the NFL?
DW: I guess just time management. You have a lot of freedom outside of practice, so I just had to make a game plan and know what I’m doing every day.
SI: What was the highlight of your rookie year?
DW: I guess my first career touchdown on my first career drive. I’d probably say that. I’ve got the ball still at home. A majority of my hardware is in a secret place, but I haven’t taken it there yet.
SI: Take us through the afternoon and evening after you went down in practice with your ACL injury.
DW: I was just trying to wrap my head around everything. I got a lot of calls, people texting me, and all the messages have an impact—people showing love and sending prayers and things like that. I was just trying to get my mind off football and focus on the process of getting back.
SI: How similar is this injury rehab process compared to what you went through in college?
DW: Each injury is different regardless of whether it’s the same type of injury, so you have to make sure you’re doing it right and doing everything like you should so you come back 100% and don’t have to go through all of it again.
SI: What’s the rehab environment like?
DW: I’m around a lot of guys. That makes it a fun environment, each of us trying to make the others better, all the guys getting back healthy feeding off that energy.
SI: Is that competitive?
DW: I wouldn’t say it’s competitive, just because, when you’re competitive and trying to beat everybody, you can forget the details and the important parts of the rehab. So everyone’s just doing their job, focusing on every drill.
SI: What’s your status at this point?
DW: I’m just walking normal, that’s pretty much it. No crutches, no brace, I’ve haven’t had any of that stuff for a while. The next step is running. That comes with time, having the strength back in the leg and making sure it’s right.
SI: What keeps you motivated and positive throughout the process?
DW: I’m self-motivated. I’m motivated for myself to be the best I can be—for me to do that I have to have my own motivation, my own positive energy. I’ve always been positive. I’m blessed to play a game I love, to throw a football, to have the things I have. There were times before where I didn’t have those things, I was still blessed. I’ve always been happy.
SI: What are you doing with Panini at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl?
DW: We just finished up signing some trading cards to go out to fans, and we’re just hanging out. It feels like just yesterday that I was out here doing all of this pre-draft. Now I’m not giving advice really. It’s not even talking about football with the guys—just casual stuff. Football has been on the back end. So it’s been a great experience to come back, it’s a blessing and I’m enjoying it.
SI: What are you looking forward to now?
DW: Just getting back to 100% and getting ready for next year.