Faith-full fighter

Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans is tackled from behind by George Odum #30 of the Indianapolis Colts during the Wild Card Round at NRG Stadium on January 05, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson may be only 23 but he has already proved himself to be not only a brilliant ball player but a dogged and resilient human being, who takes one look at adversity in life and works out how to rise above.

Deshaun grew up in Gainesville, Georgia. While he was still in high school, his mom, a single parent, got tongue cancer. Deshaun stepped up to the plate to help the family financially by doing filing at the courthouse three times a week, after football practice, until 10pm. Then there was the game on Friday, housework on Saturday and church on Sunday.

The team's coach said Deshaun never let on about the pressures at home, even as he was setting records for Gainesville High on the field, keeping up with his schoolwork and helping his brother look after their twin younger siblings.

Deshaun tattoos
Deshaun’s arms are full of revealing tattoos. (Photo: Getty Images)

His friends said he never asked for money, although his family was poor enough to get a home through charity Habitat for Humanity when Deshaun was 11.

Now that he earns millions playing professional football (he signed a four-year $13.84 million contract with the Texans in 2017), Deshaun has returned the good fortune he received, with interest, by building homes for others through the same organisation, and donating generously to Hurricane Harvey victims.

While in college, the quarterback would come home on holidays and work painting houses in the blistering heat.

Jack Waldrip, his father figure, who found him the job, remembers: "No complaints. No nothing. He didn't ask for any handouts. He was just that type of person. Man, what a work ethic. ... Some people have heart. I don't know if you're born with it. Some people just have that determination, that spirit to be successful no matter what the circumstances are.

"He just has that. He's just special."

Deshaun is also extremely intelligent and "constantly loading his brain with as much intel as possible" as one coach put it. But his success has not made him proud. As another commented after Deshaun orchestrated a surprising win, "He was so naive and humble in the moment. You just knew right away we had something special here."

Playing for college team the Clemson Tigers against South Carolina in 2014, Deshaun showed true grit, insisting on going on the field with a torn ACL (ligament in the knee). He braced up his knee, threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for two more scores and wasn't sacked. He never said a word about the pain to teammates either. Most didn't even know he had torn the ACL until after the game.

However in 2017, when Deshaun again tore his ACL, ending his NFL prospects for his rookie year and landing in hospital, he did not appear too upset.

Family and friends did not detect any sadness, any madness, any of the hysterics that were sweeping the football world. Teammates, opponents and fans were cursing the football gods. Yet there Deshaun was. At peace and bursting with "I'll be back" optimism.

"Every obstacle, he's like, 'Oh, all right. Here's what I have to do to get past it.' And he just does it. He doesn't spend time crying over stuff," Deshaun's high school coach explains.

Deshaun did come back from that injury and performed so well in the 2018 season that he was named for his first Pro Bowl [all-star game at the end of the NFL season] this past January.

Deshaun with Waldrip
Deshaun with Jack Waldrip

On his Twitter and Instagram account, Deshaun is open about the faith that directs his life and decisions. As he attended church regularly as a child, we can only assume that he came into a relationship with Jesus early on. He quotes Proverbs 22:4, "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honour and life." And his intro begins "God 1st!"

He also quotes: "1 Peter 5:6-7 'Humble yourselves therefore under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.' Stay low!"

He recently visited Israel and shared with his more than 1 million Instagram followers the powerful moment when he got baptized in the Jordan River. Baptism [being immersed in water] is a symbolic action that signifies death to one's old self and resurrection to a new life of commitment to Jesus Christ.

"Got Baptized in the Jordan River. Went tubing in the Sea of Galilee. Took a trip through Mary Magdalene's hometown. Saw the first church in (Capernaum). Life Changing Experiences – Major Blessings!" He wrote in a post.

Besides displaying his faith on his social media accounts, one can also read it all over him – literally! Deshaun has many arm tattoos, most of which are faith-based.

For instance: "Glory to God!" on his inside right upper arm; "Philippians 4:13" above it; a quote from Proverbs 30:30 under a picture of a lion on his left bicep; and a reference to John 17 below it.

This last is difficult to make out, but possibly verse 3: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."

Readers might be interested to know that Deshaun's mum (whose name, Deann, is another tattoo on his arm) survived her bout with cancer, although she had to have her tongue removed, and Deshaun bought her, for her birthday in 2017, her first car – a Jaguar!

<< John 14:15-31 - The Gospel of John
Unjustly jailed for 39 years >>