Thursday, June 21, 2018
Watson and the Tigers shocked the world Monday night in Tampa.

Clemson Earned its Title the Hard Way

When it comes to sports, we all want the rags and riches story. We root for the underdog. We want the revenge story, the redemption story. We like it when everybody bets against the “good guys” and they still come through. Monday night, when No. 2-ranked Clemson took down No. 1 Alabama 35-31 in the College Football Championship game in Tampa, Fla., we got a little bit of all that.

Alabama came is as the evil empire. They had won 26 straight games, were the defending national champions and had won all but one game this season by double digits. Over the final seven weeks of the regular season, the Crimson Tide defense had given up 10, 14, 0, 3, 3, 12 and 16 points. Only two teams had put any real score up against the Bama defense, Ole Miss, then ranked No. 19, scored 43 in a 48-43 loss and No. 16-ranked Arkansas found a way to put up 30. Everybody else? In fact, if you take out those two outlier scores and average the rest, Alabama opponents averaged 6.66 points per game. Coincidence?

Absolutely, but it’s a fun fact nonetheless.

The Tigers came in as a -6.5 dog and even that was showing real respect. Only three teams during Alabama’s 25-game domination streak had been able to keep the final score within single digits and Clemson was one of them in last year’s national championship. A game the Tide won 45-40.

So you want to talk about “underdogs” and “revenge factors?” There’s all you need.

How about “rags to riches?” Look no further than the game’s MVP and the best player in college football this season, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Watson grew up a poor kid, one of four children of a single mother, Deann. When Deshaun was 11 his mother joined up with Habitat for Humanity, a charity that helps low income families own their own homes. But it’s a working charity, meaning to get a house, Deann had to put in the hours helping to build it and other homes. It takes at least 300 hours of that work before a person can move into their Habitat for Humanity home. Deann put in that work and got her family out of a cramped apartment and into a good neighborhood in Gainesville, Fla.

Watson has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for families just like his every summer. Now, especially after a performance for the ages in what may have been the greatest college football game of all time, Watson is poised to be a multimillionaire. And he should be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

The numbers, against the best college football defense possibly ever assembled? Three touchdown passes, one touchdown rushing, 36-of-56 passing for 420 yards. Another 43 yards on the ground. Watson was the best player on the field and it wasn’t even close.

You want your “Rudy” story? How about Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow caught 10 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with one second left on the clock. Renfrow was a walk-on who didn’t play a down in 2014. The hard work he put in that season and earned a scholarship the very next year. He became the X-Factor in the national title game, just like he seemed to do every time the Tigers had their backs against the wall for the last two seasons.

And how about their coach? Dabo Swinney was a walk-on himself at Alabama back in 1990 and earned a scholarship the very next year. He was a member of the 1992 National Championship team. He coached at Alabama as an assistant until 2000 and was fired along with all of then head coach Mike DeBose’s staff that season. He was out of football for three years ujntil landing at Clemson as a wide receiver coach in 2003. When Tommy Bowden was fired in 2008, Swinney was handed the keys as the interim head coach. He never gave them back. It’s the only head coaching job he’s ever had.

Now Swinney, Watson and Renfrow are at the top of their professions. Renfrow will obviously play out his eligibility at Clemson for another two years, helping Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper or incoming freshman Hunter Johnson step into Watson’s shoes. He’ll probably never make an NFL roster, but my guess is there’s a future for Renfrow in the coaching profession, probably on Swinney’s staff.

Swinney is probably already thinking about his next class. Finalizing a recruiting class that’s already ranked No. 13 today, but could add plenty of talent thanks to that national championship trophy before signing day.

And Watson? He’ll prove how dumb NFL scouts and executives can be if he goes anywhere other than No. 1 in April’s NFL Draft. I’ve said all season he’s the Dak Prescott of this quarterback class and all the kid did Monday night was emphatically prove me right.

To make a wager on this week’s NFL games, go to the world famous Diamond Sportsbook by clicking here.

About Adam Greene

Adam Greene is a sportswriter, photographer and humorist. You can email him (and you should) at

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  • Danniel

    And do you think Watson is even better than Prescott?

    View Comment
    • Nah. I’d rank Watson right behind Prescott and above Wentz. Prescott was No. 1 and Wentz was No. 2 in my final pre-draft QB rankings last year.

      View Comment

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