Deshaun Watson, PASS IT ON

Deshaun Watson, PASS IT ON

Zibby Owens: Deshaun Watson is American football quarterback for the Houston Texans of the NFL. He played college football at Clemson and led the team to a CFP championship game appearance in 2015 and a national championship win in 2016. He was selected by the Texans twelfth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2018. Deshaun, at age twenty-four, has already written a book, which is humbling to someone like me who is forty-four who has not written a book like this. His book is called Pass It On: Work Hard, Serve Others…Repeat. I have to say, I had to — well, maybe I shouldn’t admit this. I had to ask my husband Kyle, I was like, hey, have you heard of Deshaun Watson? He was like, oh, my god! My husband and my son thought that this was pretty much the coolest thing I’ve done on this podcast. I did it. Now I’m following him on the Houston Texans and spotting him on replays on TV. I had the best time talking to him about his life and the interesting relationship with his mom and Habitat for Humanity and how another football player whose name I’m forgetting who’s super, super famous actually helped him get his first home at Habitat for Humanity. Now he’s giving back to his community. You should definitely listen to this episode. Then you should get any football lovers in your life to listen to it as well, and they will think you are very, very cool.

Hi, Deshaun. Thanks for doing this. I’m really excited to have you on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I can’t believe you’re not even twenty-five years old and you’ve already written this book. What is going on? I was like, did I read this right? 1995? I was already in college. I feel like an old lady, oh, my gosh.

Deshaun Watson: Not at all. It’s incredible. It’s truly a blessing. It’s a new experience even for myself, like you said, being twenty-four years old and already have a book coming out. It’s something I never even thought of. With the right support cast and the right team I have, they inspired me to be able to take this next step.

Zibby: Wow. Obviously, you’re an NFL quarterback. You’ve accomplished a lot in the football world. What made you want to write this book? Why shame all these people out there who have been trying to write books for their whole lives and come out from the starting gate and do it already?

Deshaun: Just because I feel like it was the best way to touch more people around the world. Of course, if you’re a sports fan, then you know about American football. You have the United States and my testimony, you heard about me before. The people that don’t watch sports, the people that are in Europe — I love to travel. I love to travel to Germany. I love London. I love Amsterdam, places like that. Of course, they hear about American football, but they don’t know anything about us. For me to be able to express my testimony and my story, I felt like this book can go global. Those people over there can actually read something and find it interesting and pick a nugget.

Zibby: Totally. Has this been a really hard time that you can’t travel, being locked down?

Deshaun: It’s definitely hard. I’m so ready to get on a flight and just go and have some free time. Definitely been hard.

Zibby: I feel like I will never be upset by an airplane delay again the rest of my life. I will be so excited to get on a plane. I don’t think I’ve ever been in one place so long in my life. Who does this? Who sits around? I don’t know. It’s amazing. Let’s talk more about your book. I didn’t know much about your backstory at all. One of the things I was most impressed about was your telling the story starting from a young age when you got the house through Habitat for Humanity and then how as you’ve grown into this successful football player, now you’ve even gone back and you’ve started your own foundation, the Deshaun Watson Foundation. Tell me about that whole full circle of your life and how Habitat for Humanity helped you and how now you’re giving back again.

Deshaun: Habitat for Humanity really changed my foundation of me and my family’s life growing up in the neighborhood, 815 Harrison Square. I know a lot people see me write 815. That’s what it is. It’s not my area code. It’s the neighborhood that I my first birthday, everything, until I was eleven or twelve years old. It was a different environment. It was the norm for me, but it was a different environment. It was Section 8 apartments. You had to get it how you live and just go from there. My mom did a good job of really managing that. Then Warrick Dunn was able to bless us with that Habitat for Humanity home and put us in a different environment where we never even really experienced or thought we were ever going to have a chance to live. It just opened my eyes to more life. For me to be able to have this platform and do the same thing I watched Warrick Dunn do to change my life and help me get to where I am today, I want to be able to do the same thing, partner up with Habitat, writing the book, and get to these communities to be able to do the same. If I can change one person’s life out of all the people that I touch and meet, it’s a dream come true for me.

Zibby: What do you think it was about your life? You’re someone who decides to give back to the ladies in the cafeteria line because you just feel like it. You started a foundation. You’ve done all this stuff so early. This desire to give back is amazing. What do you think it was? Is it your mom? She’s obviously been such an amazing mom. I was reading your stories. I’m like, how do I be as good a mom as her? What do you think it was about your upbringing or whatever that’s made you want to give back in this way?

Deshaun: I think it’s because so many people, and I’m not afraid to say it, just so many people helped me along the way and steered my in the right direction. Even if I was falling in the wrong direction, there was always somebody to there to throw me a nugget. I listened. My mom taught me that, to be able to listen and observe everyone that you meet because you can get something good out of whoever you meet. Also, you can get something bad. You want to be balanced in the middle where you see both sides and you take the energy where it takes you and what really stirs in you. I’m a big energy person. I need to be able to do that. I’ve been at the worst of the worst and at the lowest peak. When I see somebody else that is struggling or needs a little help, I feel like it’s my blessing, it’s my purpose to be able to help them out in some type of way because I’ve been there before. I know what they’re going through. I want to be able to help them out of that situation.

Zibby: That’s amazing. The ability to be so empathetic is so important. It will serve you well, I’m sure, on the field and off the field and all the rest. When you talked in the book about when you were drafted — that’s probably not the right — when you were the draft pick or whatever — that’s probably not the right way to say that either. I have actually watched the draft with my husband who’s a huge football fan, so I could imagine what you were doing. When you read the letter from your mom and she said, we were not supposed to be here, and you were crying and all that, tell me about that moment and her cancer and all the stuff you guys went through. What was it like to get up there? I know it’s still early.

Deshaun: I’m literally getting chills now when you mention that because I’m reminiscing about that night and that moment. I couldn’t hold it back. There’s only been a couple times where I actually just flat-out cried. That was a moment where it was just so much joy, so much passion, so much hard work. Out of twenty-three years of my life and my mom taking care of me and the other kids, it was the moment. She knows too. She’s the one that instilled in me, hey, we wasn’t supposed to be here. The numbers say we we’re not supposed to be here, where we come from. You did it, son. You made it. We made it. We made it together from all the bad with all the good. We stayed focused. We didn’t get too comfortable. We kept working. Now we’re at this moment and your dream has come true. I used to always tell her as a little boy, “Mom, I’m going to play in the NFL. I’m going to get you in a house.” I was always that little boy playing. Now that it came true, it’s amazing. When she dealt with her cancer, the first thing she told me, she’s like, “Hey son, don’t change anything. Get closer to the Lord. Continue to be the son that I want you to be. Continue to go out and be the kid playing football. Don’t change your perspective on how you look at life and try to take the street life. You focus on school, football. You focus on the Lord. We’re going to be fine.” Ever since then, that’s what I’ve been locked in on.

Zibby: Wow. Again, your mom, hats off. I’m telling you. Tell me about your love of chess. I thought that was so interesting, how you called yourself some sort of nerd. What did you say? Hold on, I have a quote. You said, “A football in one hand, a chess piece in the other. How athlete nerdy can you get?” You talked about how chess really helps with football and strategy and your leadership ability. Tell me a little more about the role of chess. I’ve got my five-year-old playing, so now hopefully he can be a quarterback.

Deshaun: I’d never really thought about playing chess. I’ve always saw it. My QB coach, Quincy Avery, he’s got, I don’t know if you call it master or professional. He’s out in Los Angeles. They came together. We sat down and he taught me how to play chess one day. It was supposed to be thirty minutes. Next thing you know, I looked at the time and it was already three hours. I’m like, whoa, this is actually fun. I’m getting so much out of it. We include it into our workouts. I feel like what I get out of chess is, being the quarterback, I’m always making decisions. I’m always reading my opponent. I’m sitting across the table, I’m reading his move. I’m trying to think what he’s thinking. I’m trying to see what he sees at the same time. When I’m sitting back there at quarterback, I’m doing the same thing against the defense guys and making sure that my guys on the right read are making very, very smart decisions at the right time, being patient. Sometimes I got to attack, but sometimes I need to be patient. All that stuff ties in together, especially with the position that I play. It’s been awesome.

Zibby: How do you not get distracted? How do you keep all of it in and all those plays and managing where everybody is on the field and then having all the people in the stands? Or maybe not anymore. Who knows what’s happening? How do you maintain your focus?

Deshaun: I get in the zone. Once I step on the field, I don’t even hear the noise, honestly, especially on the road games. Even home games, I just block out everything. I’m so locked in and focused on that moment and what needs to be done and what job need to be done. I just block it all out. I’ve always had that way. Sometimes it’s hard for people. Sometimes it’s not. For me, it’s just always been that way.

Zibby: This is how I know I’m not a real athlete. I play tennis. There’s a lawnmower five houses away and I’m like, I can’t. I just can’t. You have stadiums of people and you’re like, it doesn’t bother me. Speaking of what makes an athlete, you talk about managing losses and how you don’t know any great athletes who haven’t tried to understand what it was that caused the loss. Otherwise, you can’t be a great athlete unless you’re really evaluating that and learning from it. Tell me a little more about managing losses and that strategy.

Deshaun: I feel like you get so much more out of the loss than you do a win. You realize a lot more problems or detail issues that happen that caused the loss. If you win, you’re, okay, I won. I did this wrong, but onto the next thing. It’s not too much correction. When you lose and you take that loss, especially coming into an NFL locker room on that Monday, it’s not a good feeling. It’s not a good energy. You evaluate every single play that you do. You point out everything. What caused it? What did I miss out? Should I study a little bit harder this week? Should I correct the way I look at different things and different situations? Losses, I look at them as a positive thing. It’s really a negative. I look at it as a positive thing because I get so much more out of it.

Zibby: I was reading different parts of your book out to my husband. I’m like, “You know, this guy watches videos all the time.” He’s like, “That’s what you’re supposed to do.” I guess you’re constantly analyzing all the plays and what you can do and how other people find it boring, but you’re like, no, no, no. Your brain is just constantly processing.

Deshaun: Yeah, I’m always thinking about football and different situations and always watching film. I’ve learned too, being in the NFL for three years, that you don’t just watch the previous game or you don’t watch two weeks ago. You’re actually watching the coach that’s coaching that team from 1995. I’m like, yo, I was born in 1995. He’s still doing the same things? Yeah, he did it versus this player and blah, blah, blah. It’s incredible the consistency that a lot of coaches stay and the film work that they do.

Zibby: How are you not afraid? In your book you talk about all your injuries and tearing your ACL twice and all these things that happened to you. How do you get back on the field and not worry? How do you have that confidence in your body that it keeps coming back? How are you not afraid?

Deshaun: I think it just comes with the preparation and the training that I do to get back. I trust in that. I just let it loose on the field. If I have a little fear or have a little doubt or worry, I feel like that’s going to cause my injury or that’s going to cause me not to perform at my highest level. Before I even step on the field, I make sure that I’m good, locked in. Then once I’m on the field, I just let it loose.

Zibby: You talked in the book several times about how you lined up all your toys as a kid and how everything had to be straight and organized and how that’s led to this pursuit. I’m just wondering for all the parents out there who have kids who like to line up their stuff, does this give us hope that maybe we have athletes of your caliber? What do you think?

Deshaun: Your athletes are somebody that’s very thoughtful in their decision-making or in strategizing different moves. I used to take marbles, to pencils, I used to break pencils and line them up in different plays, to my toys, to batteries that my mom used to throw away. I’d go through the trash can. I’d get them out. would play against each other. That’s age four, five, six, seven, eight, all the way until, really, high school. Then I threw all that stuff away once we moved to the Habitat home. My whole time growing up, childhood, I used to always draw up plays and control everyone else was around me when we played football or any type of sports activity.

Zibby: I was going to say, if you’re still playing with batteries, maybe I could offer up some other toy suggestions at this point if you run out that one. You have incorporated all these principles in your book. You’ve obviously done a ton of work. I know you worked with a ghostwriter. I read up about her. She’s super impressive in her own right. How did you two pair up? What it was like working with a ghostwriter?

Deshaun: We met my rookie year in 2017. I was at the Galleria Mall. She was at a hotel next door. We ran into each other. She hit up my agent. She was like, “Hey, I’m next door. I just seen Deshaun.” We met at the hotel lobby. She sat me down and introduced herself, wrote books. She was like, “Your testimony, your story, I feel like you should write a book.” At first, I’m like, no, I’m just focused on football. I’m not trying to do all that. I don’t even like reading. We kind of put that toward the side. She kept contacting my agent, contacting my agent. She was very, very — it wasn’t annoying, but she was very, very passionate about, hey, we need to get this done. I have a feeling this is going to be good. A year and a half later, two years later, we come to this moment and she’s still calling. I’m like, yo, let’s give it a try. We sat down again and really listened to her and thought out the whole book project. It was just the best situation. I felt like, yeah, you’ve been right a long time ago. We should’ve did this in 2017. I would’ve probably had three books out now.

Zibby: No, but you had so many more stories to include. Imagine your book when you’re forty. You’ll have shelves like this, like a hundred books by then.

Deshaun: Exactly. I just felt like it was the perfect time to wait and build more stories and build more of my professional career. At this moment at age twenty-four, the first book comes out. Then there’s many more stories to happen.

Zibby: How did you do it? Did you dictate to her and she recorded it? What was your process like with her?

Deshaun: It was a lot of phone calls, a lot of FaceTimes, a lot of me talking to my agent when I’m at practice, what’s going on, her sending questions to me. I’m filling out questions through emails. It was a lot of that kind of contact. Especially during the season, it was very hard for her to just pop up here. She didn’t want to bother me. She wanted me to lock in, which was awesome. We did a lot of emailing and FaceTimes and calls and things like that.

Zibby: Wow, amazing. The line between annoying and persistent and passionate, it’s a tricky line. It seems to have paid off for her. That’s funny. Now you’re going into a new season. Who knows what is going on in the world? You’re so thoughtful in the book about outlining your approach to basically every way in which you’re living your life, which is just so astounding for anybody, but particularly somebody your age, not to keep talking about your age. How are you taking all this in and managing the uncertainty with the upcoming season? What do you expect? How are you getting yourself ready when there’s so much out in the world that we don’t know?

Deshaun: Honestly, I had to change the way I process things. Like you said, the word expect, I haven’t expected anything. I’m going with the flow now. I had to change that look on, I have a deadline, this is when we’re reporting. This is what’s going on. We’re going to play this team in preseason. I need to be ready to hype it up. Now I have no expectations because I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t want to be disappointed. I don’t want to get too high and it brings me too low. I just take it day by day, step by step, but always staying prepared for the next situation and being ready to adjust as fast as possible. If I have that mindset approaching this season, then I think I’ll be fine.

Zibby: Are you still training? Do you do all that stuff? All of it?

Deshaun: Yeah, training in an hour or so. I usually train every day and condition and throw and watch a little tape and things like that. Then I hang out.

Zibby: It’s exciting. If the NFL season really doesn’t happen, I don’t know what my husband’s going to do.

Deshaun: I don’t know what I’m going to do either.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, a lot more tape to watch, I guess. If you were going to write another book, if you were to give advice to people writing a book, what would you tell them having gone through this process already?

Deshaun: I’d just say open up. Open up your imagination. Open up the experiences that you’ve dealt with growing up. Just tell your story. That’s the biggest thing. Everyone has a story. Everyone has experiences, good, bad, adversity. Be able to open up everything that you have and be able to just let it loose on paper. It might sound crazy. It might be out of order. If you have someone like I had in Lavaille, who was my ghostwriter, they’re going to organize it and get it on track. That’s what we did.

Zibby: I have to say, when I first started reading your book, I downloaded it onto my iPad. There was the opening scene of you basically getting baptized in Israel. I was like, I think I downloaded the wrong book. This must be something else. What is going on?

Deshaun: That was definitely a special moment of my journey.

Zibby: Tell me about the significance of that in the overall context. Then I’ll leave you alone in a minute.

Deshaun: It was amazing. My QB trainer, Quincy, he’s like my big brother now, they contacted him. It was like, “We want you and Deshaun to come out and train and get the experience and the tour.” We decided to do that, spent the week in Israel. They were like, “Hey, you want to get baptized in the river that Jesus got baptized in?” We were like, yeah, that’ll be the coolest moment ever. We did that. It was amazing. The energy, the passion, the people that made sure we were good each and every day, and the food, everything was just amazing. It was probably one of my favorite trips I’ve ever been on.

Zibby: Wow, I’ve never been there. Now I’m inspired. For your last question, I’ll let you go train and do everything else that’s more important, but what do you say to people who are growing up and all have dreams of doing what you’re doing? I know you’re still in the beginning of your career and everything, but what advice would you give to people so they don’t give up, so they don’t give up to the point to get to where you are right now? What’s the advice? What’s your inspiration?

Deshaun: I would say don’t have any doubt. Whatever your goals and your dreams are, if it’s being the quarterback of an NFL team or being in a movie or whatever you want to be in life, don’t have any doubt behind it. Go full throttle at it. Don’t be afraid to take losses and make mistakes. That’s one thing that I wasn’t afraid of going through my path and my journey. I was always very confident in myself in a humble way. Also, I knew that some losses and some mistakes was going to happen, but I’m going to use it into a positive momentum and keep pushing forward.

Zibby: That’s great. Thank you so much. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Thanks for passing it on. Thanks for all of your advice and advice for people like my son and myself and everybody. It’s just really awesome life advice. I can’t wait to now follow you and see as you get to be old and stodgy like me, I’m kidding, in my forties, but what advice you’re going to have over the course of your career. I’m excited to watch it all unfold.

Deshaun: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you having me on here.

Zibby: Have a great day.

Deshaun: You too.

Zibby: Take care. Buh-bye.

Deshaun Watson, PASS IT ON