NEWS

HOME GROWN

NCAA champ got Habitat from ex-NFLer

NY Daily NewsEVAN GROSSMAN NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
DESHAUN WATSON'S road to college football immortality and the NFL draft began in a ranch home in Georgia -- built with the help of former NFL star Warrick Dunn.
A decade before leading Clemson to its first title since the 1981 season, Watson recalls Dunn standing in the door of the Gainesville, Ga., home and handing his mom the keys to a new life.
Watson, then 11, his mother Deann, and his three siblings qualified for a Habitat for Humanity home after his mom volunteered more than 300 hours on other projects through Dunn's "Home for the Holidays" program.
The charity, which offers a hand up instead of a handout, is Dunn's way of helping others -- fulfilling a promise he made after his own single mom, a police officer, was shot and killed working a part-time security job in 1993.
Once the homes are complete, Dunn furnishes them with appliances and furniture and puts food in the fridge.
It was a memorable, lifechanging experience for the Watson family.
"I felt grown having my own room," Deshaun Watson told The Associated Press before last season's championship game, which Clemson lost to Alabama. "Just having my own bed, not really being squished, not really worrying about someone sneaking up on me, it was a great moment, a special moment."
As of last year, Dunn had helped house 145 single-parent families. The former Tampa Bay running back downplayed the role he had in molding the future of a two-time Heisman runnerup.
"We just try to help put people in safer environments and give kids an opportunity," Dunn told Pro Football Talk. "You never know what impact you will have. You hope it's a positive impact."
The impact of the helping hand he gave one family was realized Monday night when Watson led the Clemson Tigers to the NCAA football national championship. Watson was at the helm of a game-winning drive that ended with 1 second left on the clock and a Clemson touchdown that toppled mighty Alabama.
'Just having my own bed ... it was a great moment, a special moment.' DESHAUN WATSON
He was 36-for-56, passing for 420 yards with three touchdowns, including the winner to Hunter Renfrow with 1 second left. He also ran for 43 yards and a TD to power the Tigers to a 35-31 win.
"It's like a movie," Clemson center Jay Guillermo told ESPN after the game. "All the sports movies you watch, the storybook ending."
Watson is also paying it forward, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and serving as an ambassador and spokesman for the organization.
Monday night after winning the NCAA title, Watson declared for the NFL draft.
He is in store for more fame -- and a platform to help others the same way Dunn aided his family when they needed it most.
"Whoever picks me up is gonna get a champion, not just on the field, but off the field, and just a champion at heart who'll make people around him better," Watson said after the game."
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