Multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against Deshaun Watson are in stark contrast to his NFL image

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Mike Jones, USA TODAY
·4 min read
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Already at odds with management decisions that led him to request a trade, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson this week found himself at the center of controversy of a different kind.

Seven lawsuits from massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct and harassment by the quarterback have clouded Watson’s future as the legal process and an NFL-led investigation unfold.

In a statement posted to social media on Tuesday night, Watson denied wrongdoing and said he looks forward to "clearing my name." The Texans, in a statement Thursday, acknowledged the NFL's investigation and said they were aware of the lawsuits but did not comment further.

But news of the allegations took many by surprise around the NFL, because such behavior contrasts with the image Watson has portrayed in his four seasons as a professional football player, as a star at Clemson University and growing up in Gainesville, Georgia.

Deshaun Watson is facing multiple civil lawsuits.
Deshaun Watson is facing multiple civil lawsuits.

People familiar with Watson expressed disbelief about the accusations leveled against him.

As is well-documented, his mother raised Watson and his three siblings alone and couldn't move her family out of government housing. In 2006, thanks to their area’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity and former NFL player Warrick Dunn, Watson’s family received a home of its own.

The gesture provided a pathway to a new life. While starring at Clemson, Watson volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Greenville, South Carolina.

On the field, Watson played through injury during the 2014 season, even playing a game with a torn ACL. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist in each of the next two seasons and led Clemson to the national championship to cap the 2016 season, taking home MVP honors in the title game.

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Drafted 12th overall by Houston in the spring of 2017, he donated his first game check to Texans cafeteria workers who had been affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Watson electrified on the field, infusing the Texans franchise with life as a dual-threat quarterback. But midway through his rookie season, Watson tore his ACL again and missed the rest of the season. He was still ranked 50th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018 list and named to the PFWA All-Rookie team.

Once again, Watson returned from injury, and in each of the last three seasons, has taken home Pro Bowl honors.

Leading up to the 2020 season, Watson joined the family of George Floyd in a march of protest, calling for racial justice and the end to police brutality following Floyd's killing while in police custody in Minneapolis. Last month, Watson helped feed 10,000 underprivileged residents in his hometown of Gainesville.

The Texans greatly valued their quarterback and last September signed Watson to a four-year, $156 million extension that made him the second-best paid player in the NFL after Patrick Mahomes. But the 2020 season was anything but rosy for Watson and the Texans. Four weeks in, coach/GM Bill O’Brien was fired after an 0-4 start, several questionable personnel moves and clashes with upper management.

Watson remained productive, however. Despite working with a roster with limited star power thanks to salary cap dumps and O'Brien's highly criticized trade of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Watson led the NFL in passing with 4,823 yards.

But the turmoil that engulfed the Texans during the season has continued. After meetings with team brass, Watson received assurances that ownership would consider his input on the hiring of a new general manager and head coach, per reports. But Houston hired Nick Caserio from New England to run the front office, without Watson’s knowledge, and didn’t seriously consider his top pick for head coach, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

With trust damaged and the relationship soured, Watson informed the Texans he wanted to be traded. Houston has remained steadfast against trading him and hoped eventually, differences could be worked out. Watson met with new coach David Culley and informed him and other members of the organization that his mind had not changed, and he had no intention of returning.

Now, Watson is facing more serious matters.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Deshaun Watson's NFL image is a stark contrast to allegations he faces