It apparently pays to be a ball boy in the NFL.
When Deshaun Watson was young, he spent time as a ball boy for the Atlanta Falcons, and he’d do do various odd jobs when the players needed something. He also threw to the Falcons receivers some. During his time being around the Falcons, he became a star quarterback at Gainesville High School in Georgia.
ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop wrote about Watson’s experience as one of the Falcons’ ball boys before Watson’s Houston Texans take on the Falcons this Sunday.
And Barshop got Watson to share a doozy of a story about former Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel.
Deshaun Watson got a nice tip from Asante Samuel
Watson told Barshop that one day during practice, Samuel was doing a special-teams drill when he realized he forgot his mouthpiece in his locker. Samuel, a four-time Pro Bowler who spent his final two seasons with Atlanta, asked Watson to go get it for him. That was the type of thing ball boys would do. Samuel told Watson to see him after practice.
“So I went to his locker after practice, and he pulled out his Louis [Vuitton] bag and pulled out a whole stack of money, and he gave me like $1,000, just to go get his mouthpiece,” Watson said. “He didn’t have to give me anything, but he did.”
Watson said that was a lesson for him in how to treat people. Watson has carried that on. Even as a rookie there were heartwarming stories about him treating everyone in the Texans organization well.
Watson’s time as a ball boy benefited him
Watson started as a ball boy at age 14, and the Falcons asked him back every year Watson was in high school. Not only was it working with the team in training camp, but Barshop wrote the ball boys were allowed on the sideline and in the locker room on game days.
Watson said being around an NFL team growing up helped him immensely. He told Barshop the experience “taught me how to really work.”
There are also tales of Watson being nervous throwing to star receivers like Roddy White, though those nerves dissipated over time. Julio Jones said he knew Watson was going to be a good quarterback and “I tried to get him to go to Alabama.” Watson went to Clemson, and he beat Alabama in the national championship game.
Who knows? Maybe there’s a ball boy on an NFL team that is honing his craft and becoming the next Deshaun Watson.
“I always think about it,” Watson told ESPN. “That’s something that helped change my life.”
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