GINA LEHE: Good evening to members of the media on tonight’s call. At this time we’d like to welcome Deshaun Watson from Clemson University. Deshaun, if you could please start by providing a brief opening statement on how the focus has shifted since the Fiesta Bowl in preparation for the National Championship game.
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, treating it like another week. It’s a game week, and put the Fiesta behind us, just feed off the momentum and confidence from that game, move forward and focus on Alabama and what we’ve got to do to be productive and win on Monday night.
Coach Swinney said yesterday he felt like you guys just had a little bit more juice going into this game, maybe a little fresher and not as tired. Do you sense that on your body? Do you feel like you’re not as tired going into this game?
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah. The only difference is last year we played, I think, 10, 11 straight weeks, and this year we had kind of a break in between. So I feel like a lot more juice, a lot more depth and stuff for us to be able to go into this game more healthy.
I want to ask you about off the field. I know you graduated a couple weeks ago, and I know you’ve discussed it, but if you could speak again on why it was so important to you to get a college degree, and further on that, what do you think how important that will be to you beyond your football career? Do you think about that, what it could mean to you beyond just the accomplishment of getting your college degree?
DESHAUN WATSON: Yeah, just because a lot of us here just have the opportunity to be the first person in their family to get their degree. And what it means to me, just no one can take that away from me, I put the time and work in, and knowledge is something that you can’t take away from a person. And so I just wanted to be the first one in my family and start a trend for my little brother and little sister and for my kids in the future and my whole family.
What do you think that degree will mean to you? Have you thought about it? As Nick Saban has said, most of your life will be spent probably not playing football. How do you think it’ll help you in life going forward?
DESHAUN WATSON: I mean, it’s a degree, so I mean, it opens up a lot of doors. You know, it makes sure that you’re knowledgeable and certified to do some work in the field that you want to work in, and it just shows that you have the tools to be able to fulfill that work off the field.
I know back last year, you said, We’ll see you in Tampa next year. Just want to know, what gave you the confidence to know that you guys would be back in this position given all that can happen in any given season?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just belief. That’s just the type of person I am. That’s it. I have high standards for me and my teammates, and this is where we wanted to be. We weren’t going to sit there and say we’re not going to be in Tampa or in the National Championship. That was one of the things, we wanted to be in the front again and be one of the best teams. Just having that belief and that’s it, going into the year and putting in the work.
And after the loss to Pittsburgh, did you do or say anything to your teammates to kind of resharpen that focus heading into the end of the season?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just regroup, put it in the past and just keep moving forward. You can’t dwell on it because a loss is a loss, and this game, we’ve just got to keep moving forward and learn from it.
Talk about how Ben Boulware addresses you guys as a team; are there any moments that stick out to you that he’s had as far as like …
DESHAUN WATSON: I mean, he’s just a motivational guy, just always encouraging his defensive side and also just the whole team. I mean, he just brings his energy and his encouragement to the game and to the team and gets everyone fired up. There’s a lot of things that he says. Just whatever is on his mind.
Does he do that every Friday before games?
DESHAUN WATSON: It just depends. It just depends on everything, you know, who’s talking or not.
Deshaun, just had two questions. One, as far as Alabama, they’ve got 50 sacks, and the offensive pass rush can come from all angles. What are you seeing on film that makes them so tough getting to the quarterback?
DESHAUN WATSON: They have some good guys that are very knowledgeable of the game and put in the work, and they just win their match-ups.
And just to follow up, how much is pre-snap for you key to figuring out and making the determination of when they’re going to blitz, when they’re not? How big do you think that’ll be in this championship?
DESHAUN WATSON: Man, that’s in every game, not just this game, understanding my keys and putting us in the right place and in position to be successful whenever they call their plays, and try to be successful.
I’m wondering, in your preparation are you looking more at what you guys did last year against Alabama or are you looking for at Alabama’s defense from the last couple games?
DESHAUN WATSON: This year. Last year is last year. You can’t go based off last year. They have maybe – I want to say seven new starters, eight new starters on this defense, and everyone else is in the NFL. So totally different defense, so you’ve got to go based off this previous year. You can’t live on last year’s success. You’ve got to keep moving forward and see what’s going on this year.
How much does your defensive line and how good they are help you to prepare for a team like this?
DESHAUN WATSON: It won’t be a shell shock or a shock when we step on the field on Monday. I think they’re very good and we’ve prepared and we’ve prepared the defense, so we’ll just turn our eyes to ourselves and keep moving forward and worry about Clemson.
At the beginning of the season you kind of talked a little bit about your experience as a black quarterback in the FBS. Now we have two black quarterbacks playing for a National Championship in you and Jalen Hurts. What does that mean to you personally and what do you think that means for college football as a whole?
DESHAUN WATSON: I mean, I’m not sure. I don’t look at any race or things like that. You guys in the media took it the wrong way when I said anything about the whole black and the idea of that. It’s just stuff that at the time that a guy asked a question, and the question kind of turned into something else totally different than what we were actually talking about.
I mean, I guess it’s cool. Just two good teams playing in the National Championship, trying to get a win.
Looking at this Alabama defense, obviously they’ve got a different defensive coordinator this year. When you watch them, it seems like they do a little bit more blitzing than they did a year ago. Tell me some of the things you’ve picked up on film, and is that the way you’ve seen it?
DESHAUN WATSON: Man, I guess so. They do a lot of similar things, but they do a lot of different things, just disrupt the offense. We going to try to figure out tendencies to be able to execute whenever they do bring pressure.
How important is it with that said that your keys and the wide receiver’s keys, being it’s already difficult to throw the ball sometimes with the small windows they give you, that you guys got to be on the same page completely in this game?
DESHAUN WATSON: That’s every game. That’s not just because of this game. We’ve seen each week you’ve got to prepare for the small windows, and your keys, that’s how you be successful.
I know you obviously are probably focusing more on Alabama’s defense, but what’s been your assessment of Jalen Hurts just kind of as a player, as a fan of college football yourself, and do you draw any similarities between yourself and him, both playing as true freshmen, that sort of thing?
DESHAUN WATSON: I’m not sure. I can’t speak too much on Hurts from what I’ve seen. From what I’ve seen and people talk that he’s a good player. He’s in the National Championship, so he’s doing a good job for his team and being successful.
How much of a difference has Mike Williams made for you all year?
DESHAUN WATSON: That’s another weapon, another guy that has experience and knowledge of his offense and just keeps everyone at that position doing the right things because he’s a leader, just another weapon for the defense for them to worry about.
Obviously you’ve already done a lot of great things to leave quite a legacy at Clemson; what do you most want to be remembered for, whether you win on Monday night or not, and what’s kind of most important to you as far as the legacy you’re going to leave behind over your career there?
DESHAUN WATSON: Just leading this platform for the right reasons, help others, impacting the community, and just done it with no regrets, just had fun and enjoyed the time at Clemson.
This might be a little bit of a reach, but you’ve obviously faced Jeremy Pruitt as a defensive coordinator before; is there anything that you can take from that for this game?
DESHAUN WATSON: No, not at all. You know, that was two years ago, and he’s a better coach. He’s still going to be himself, but each year he just improves on his defense, and just got to go out there and execute.