Deshaun Watson was looking good Wednesday afternoon. He had just gotten a makeover from Old Spice, he was expected to be a first round pick in the NFL Draft the next day, and he was living a life many could only dream of. Yet mostly he looked tired.
He’d been traveling a lot since winning the National Championship game in January. He was training in California, doing his Clemson University pro-day and NFL Combine runs, and visiting NFL teams all over the country. His big moment was looming the next day. His name was to be called and then he’d be whisked away to wherever the fates had decided.
“What day is it?” Watson said. “It’s Wednesday, right?”
The months of travel have been exhausting for many of the draftees. They fly, do job interviews, and some, despite getting a break from football, haven’t even been home to see their families since declaring for the draft.
For Watson, despite his exhaustion, he was actually excited more than anything. Though he had interviews all day Wednesday and more to follow the next, he knew his name would be called and he’d be ready to go wherever he was taken.
“The last four months, I couldn’t control anything,” said Watson, who was taken 12th overall by the Houston Texans Thursday night. “I can’t control where I go, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and once I’m selected, I’ll have some control again.”
The long hours do weigh on him, so Watson turns to non-football activities in his limited free time to keep calm and collected. Watson partakes in shopping, video games, and paintball as his favorite non-football stress relievers. Those, and his favorite meal from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
“Right now, I go for hibachi or I go to Ruth’s Chris and I get calamari with bread, grilled salmon, french fries, and Boston mac-and-cheese with a Shirley Temple and a water,” Watson said. “My agent put me on to Shirley Temples, so when I go out I always get those.”
Mitch Trubisky, the UNC product who was taken second overall by the Chicago Bears Thursday night, had a similar approach to the draft. As rumors swirled about where he might be taken, he approached the situation with a healthy perspective.
Trubisky and some of the other draftees spent part of Wednesday morning at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia visiting some of the patients. Trubisky said he enjoys doing that type of work. If he wasn’t going to the NFL, he said he would coach football and teach.
Being with these children specifically brought him down to earth ahead of the draft.
“You just have to put things into perspective,” Trubisky said. “We were at the Children’s Hospital early this morning volunteering, spending time over there at the hospital hanging out with them. Why should I be stressed getting drafted when I’m not going through anything horrible or dealing with the circumstances these kids and families are.”
Other players were a little more vocal about their stress. Jonathan Allen, who was taken 17th overall by the Washington Redskins, said Wednesday that his anxiety has been very real for some time and has grown as draft day grew closer. He may be nervous, but “who wouldn’t be?”
“I don’t care what anybody says, everybody is a little anxious,” Allen said. “Whether you decide to acknowledge it, it is what it is. Now is it going to consume me? No. I’m a little anxious, I’m a little nervous, I don’t know where I’m going to live at, I don’t know what city I’m going to play in, let’s just be honest.”
Even with the nerves, Allen looked calm as a cucumber. A massive cucumber that’s built like an Alabama defensive lineman and thinks that being honest about the situation will help him get through it. A Papa John’s pizza and video games like Call of Duty Black Ops and Battlefield also help, though his nutritionist fiancé may disapprove at times.
Whatever the method, these players do what they have to do to relax. All of their moments came and went on the famous Rocky steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art late Thursday night. As they awaited the sound of having their names called, all they could do was sit there. No video games or paintball and no control over their destinies. But when their names were called, at least for a moment, stress was taken off for the first time in months.
“You can’t put it into perspective,” Allen said. “That’s why you see guys get emotional and cry when it happens because who the hell gets drafted? That’s so cool. There’s no way to comprehend it until it happens.”