GREENVILLE, SC – Before the Heisman talk. Before the banner freshman year at Clemson University. Before being one the most recruited quarterbacks in America. Deshaun Watson was a 10-year-old at a church Halloween party.
It was an event that changed his life and his family’s.
Tucked in a treat bag was information about the local Habitat affiliate. He gave it to his mother, Deann, who got inspired and started the application process. The path to a Habitat home is hard. Families must qualify through a series of rigorous financial questions and classes. Once qualified, they must work on their home.
Watson’s jobs included passing out water bottles, handing up wooden planks and getting tools for older volunteers because he was too young. Standing before a packed room of 250 Habitat for Humanity friends and family from across the Upstate of South Carolina Thursday night, Watson said he doubted his path would have led to Clemson or even college football if his family stayed in government housing where drug dealers and cops were common sites.
The Habitat home, which was furnished through the foundation of former Atlanta Falcons star Warrick Dunn, gave him a sense of place. It had a backyard. It was safe. It was home.
“It is a life changer,” he said. “I took a different approach to life after that. It’s something very special to be part of.”
Watson spoke at the event hosted by the Habitat Greenville chapter where he also signed Clemson pennants for children from five counties. Monroe Free, the president and chief executive officer of Habitat Greenville, said his group reached out to Watson because they felt his story epitomized the Habitat goal of doing more than providing housing.
“Habitat is really in the business of changing lives – not just building homes,” Free said.
Watson said he wanted to share his story in the hope of inspiring others who are looking at the Habitat process.
“I want to show them that anything is possible,” he said.
The event also gave a look at Watson’s non-football side through a series of audience questions. He said his favorite thing to do off the field was to shop. When asked if hoped to play for a specific NFL team, he drew laughs by answering he will pay for any that will pay him. He deflected questions on whether he had plans to get married soon, which caused more laughs.
In the end, he said he had one goal after football.
“I’m going to help with Habitat,” he said.
About Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County
Through affordable home construction, Habitat for Humanity of Greenville strives to eliminate poverty housing and the social and economic problems it causes. It is the 2015 winner of the Nonprofit Excellence Award given by the SC Association of Nonprofit Organizations (SCANPO). Habitat Greenville, chartered in 1985, celebrates its 30th anniversary and construction of its 330th home this year. Learn more at www.habitatgreenville.org.