April 15, 2024

In part one of this three-part series about Deshaun Watson, I briefly chronicled some of the major obstacles he overcame on his way to football stardom.

You can read that HERE

He has shown an awareness of how important assistance from others was to him, whether through emotional or financial support. Watson has also shown a deep, lasting appreciation of those people and organizations and the critical roles they played in his development.

Even before he became wealthy upon signing his first NFL contract, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to give back and help others as he was helped, or as it is called, pay it forward. His book even carries the title “Pass It On.”

Watson’s high school QB coach, Michael Perry, told the Gainesville Times last year, “He’s the kind of person who has helped people every chance he gets and is a role model for others.”

Watson’s philanthropy in his hometown of Gainesville runs deep. According to the Times, the Deshaun Watson Foundation is funding two college scholarships each year for Gainesville High seniors and started the Deshaun Watson Food Drive campaign, which fed over 10,000 people last year.

He wasted little time demonstrating his commitment to giving when he arrived in Houston in 2017, handing over his first game check to three women who worked in the Texans cafeteria who had recently been virtually wiped out by the massive Hurricane Harvey. He detailed this event in his book, claiming he resisted the idea of cameras on hand recording it, but there have been plenty of cameras around his charitable work since then. This is not uncommon for a popular celebrity, which Watson was in Houston.

Not surprisingly, Watson touts his continued involvement with Habitat for Humanity-they were loyal to his family, therefore he remains loyal to them.

Watson established his foundation in 2019. The website, which has not been updated in a while and still has him wearing a Houston Texans uniform, says in the “About Us” section:

The Deshaun Watson Foundation is dedicated to education, health, housing, and other charitable causes that support families and youth in underserved communities.

Services provided by the foundation include rent and/or mortgage assistance, college scholarships and assistance to schools and educational programs and health support for families and children. While he furnishes funding for the foundation, they also solicit donations.

The Foundation’s Twitter account shows more of the foundation’s activities, including Watson himself packing computers donated to students and families, a summer reading program and lunches and dinners for hospital workers in Houston and first responders in Gainesville during the early peak of COVID-19 in 2020.

In February 2021, Watson was honored for his philanthropic work with the BET Faith in Action award, presented by none other than Warrick Dunn, the same person who furnished his family’s Habitat for Humanity home more than a decade earlier, an act of kindness that Watson again thanked him for during his acceptance speech.

I mentioned back in part one of this series that Watson’s book was more of a leadership book than one about football, which he wrote was unusual for someone as young as him (23 when he wrote it). His collaborator, Lavaille Lavette, is not a sportswriter, carrying a master’s degree in education consistent with Watson’s expressed passion for learning.

The theme of Watson’s book is servant leadership, a phrase that he must use at least a hundred times throughout. Every point and story he wrote was directed back to how it tied into servant leadership.

Servant leadership is a topic I have personally studied extensively. The most direct definition I have seen is a leadership philosophy where the goal of the leaders is to serve, not to be served. Effective servant leaders put others before themselves. They seek to lift others up, equipping and empowering them toward realizing their potential rather than accumulating power and accolades for themselves.

Watson makes two key, related points about how he views servant leadership-points which are consistent with my studies:

To inspire others to follow you, not only do you need to have values with which they identify and embrace, but you must act on those values as well.

To be a truly effective and inspiring servant leader, you cannot say one thing then do something that runs completely counter to your words.

Most successful quarterbacks are effective leaders, and Watson certainly qualifies from the very beginning of his career. He started as a freshman on a powerful high school team, took over as Clemson’s starter as a freshman and eventually lead them to a national championship, and started most of his rookie season in Houston until his second ACL injury and lead them to two AFC South championships.

Deshaun Watson has been presented with some difficult challenges in his life, but he has overcome them all-poverty, no father, a sick mother and two serious knee injuries. He also set challenges for himself with accelerated graduation from high school and college.  Once past those challenges, his life became a steady climb upwards, peaking with a four-year, $160 million contract extension from the Houston Texans in September 2019.

After that, the entire narrative of his life has changed for the worse, even while he has received an even richer contract from the Cleveland Browns. Allegations outnumber cold, hard facts regarding Deshaun Watson since 2020, but I’ll look at both and offer some opinions on how he got there, and how Browns should feel about it when I conclude this series with “Deshaun Watson Part 3-The Entitled One.”

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