GREENVILLE, S.C. – Long before he was a Heisman hopeful leading the Clemson Tigers into national championship contention, Deshaun Watson was a young boy living in a house built by Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity of Greenville is recognizing Watson’s path to success by building a house in the Grace Point community in honor of the quarterback from Gainesville, Georgia. The house at 15 Hope Bridge Way will be known as The Next Generation House in honor of Deshaun Watson.
Watson received Habitat for Humanity International’s inaugural Next Generation award in 2015. The award recognizes people who grew up in a Habitat home and embody the qualities of determination, commitment, dedication and citizenship and set an example for other Habitat families.
“Owning a Habitat house is a different feeling for each family,” Watson said. “It’s a special feeling. For us, it was wonderful.”
On Tuesday, the entire Clemson football team and coaching staff came to Greenville to work in the Grace Point neighborhood – assisting with the construction of two houses at Grace Point; building new fencing along the property line; performing landscaping on six other houses, and completing other tasks in the community. The team wore purple T-shirts with Habitat 4 Humanity on the front in orange and Next Generation House on the back.
“The Grace Point Project will expand Habitat Greenville’s capacity to serve families with low income who are ready for partnership,” said Monroe Free, Habitat Greenville President & CEO. “As the inaugural project in our Veterans Build initiative, it also is an intentional effort to serve a new segment of the population – military veterans. In total, thirteen families will enjoy the benefits of their own hard work and commitment through homeownership in Grace Point. Habitat is about more than houses. It is about enabling families to build strength, stability and self-reliance through homeownership. Deshaun Watson’s story is a wonderful example of this.”
Watson has spoken often about growing up in government housing in Gainesville. Watson’s life changed when he brought home information about Habitat for Humanity from a church Halloween party when he was in elementary school. He gave it to his mother, Deann, who became inspired to improve her family’s life, and began the application process for a Habitat home.
His mother surprised Watson by making the trip to Greenville Tuesday. She walked out of the house, which will owned by the family of Jalen Watley, just as he was about to honored.
After their acceptance into the Habitat for Humanity program, Deann had to complete homeowner education classes and perform sweat equity. Deshaun joined in, passing out water bottles, bringing materials and carrying tools for older volunteers because he was too young for the harder work. He says it taught him lessons that he has used on the football field ever since. 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.
In addition, Watson was honored Tuesday as a member of the 2016 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the award, which was established in 1992 to recognize a select group of college football players who have made a commitment to service and enriching the lives of others.
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney also spoke Tuesday about Habitat. The team has long done a yearly build, but decided to expand its efforts this year, in part because of the team rallying around Watson’s story.
“We talk about building leadership, but we really want to build servant leadership,” he said.
About Habitat Greenville:
Through construction of affordable homes in partnership with families with low income, Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County enables families to build stability, strength and self-reliance. Habitat Greenville received the Greenville Chamber’s Neighborhood Improvement Award in 2015, and was recognized with the 2015 Nonprofit Excellence Award, given by the SC Association of Nonprofit Organizations (SCANPO). Chartered in 1985, Habitat Greenville has completed construction of more than 335 homes. In recognition of its financial health, accountability and transparency, Habitat Greenville received 4-Star Charity status by Charity Navigator. Learn more at www.habitatgreenville.org.