March 25, 2021

Deshaun Watson's Mom Survived Cancer and Is His Inspiration — inside the NFL Star's Upbringing

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Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson had to work really hard to make it to the NFL, and his mother, who survived cancer, has always been his inspiration.

Born in 1995 in Gainesville, Georgia, Deshaun Watson is one of Deann Watson’s four children. As a single mother, she had to work tirelessly to provide for her family.

Still, it was pretty challenging as the family spent years living in public housing. At some point, seven people had to share a two-bedroom apartment.

Deshaun Watson on January 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas | Photo: Getty Images



That was until Deshaun, nine years old at the time, took home a Habitat for Humanity flier, a nonprofit organization that helps families build homes using volunteer labor.

Since their situation was already dire, Deann decided to give it a try and, after completing over 200 hours of volunteer service by building homes and donating at shelters, she could build her own place in 2011.


Coincidentally, it was Warrick Dunn, a retired NFL player who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, who presented the keys of the four-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch-style home to the Watsons.

According to Deshaun, that changed “everyone’s lives,” including his, as it gave him the much-needed motivation to fulfill his dreams and become who he is nowadays.



As a sophomore at Gainesville High School, Deshaun was attracting many college coaches' attention for his arm. At the same time, he was working as a ball boy for the Falcons.

Sadly, Deshaun Watson’s mom was diagnosed with stage-five tongue cancer in 2011, also during Deshaun’s sophomore year. He and his older brother, Detrick, had to help raise two of his siblings without neglecting his responsibilities as a student and athlete.


According to Deshaun, he worked four jobs at the time – ball boy, tax assessor, accountant assistant, and real estate assistant – so that his younger siblings could get to school, had food on the table, and clothes to wear.

Deann had to get treatment in Atlanta, almost 50 miles away from their home in Gainesville. It is important to point out that Deann didn’t want her three youngest children to visit her during her treatment.


According to her, it could “turn their lives upside down.” For that reason, Deshaun Watson’s family – mainly his aunt and uncle, Sonia and Terri Watson – took care of him and his siblings.

Deshaun knows that without his mom […], he wouldn’t have made it to the NFL.


Speaking of Sonia, she once pointed out that it was Deann’s family that pushed her through everything, adding that being able to help her children gave Deann “so much strength.”

Deshaun’s mom underwent chemo and radiotherapy, got her tongue surgically removed, and eventually, it was reconstructed. The whole treatment lasted about six months, and Deann fortunately survived.



Years went by, and Deshaun went to Clemson University and joined the football team, the Tigers, as a quarterback. Apart from helping the Tigers win a National Championship, he graduated with a degree in Communications.

Then, in 2017, the Houston Texans drafted him in the first round. In 2020, he signed a four-year contract extension with the team, proving how important he is for the organization.


Deshaun knows that without his mom, family, and those who helped along the way, he wouldn’t have made it to the NFL, which is why he’s so eager to give back.

During his time at Clemson, he and the rest of the team worked on a community service project with Habitat for Humanity in Greenville. Deshaun was the leader, said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.


Then, in 2019, the Texans’ quarterback partnered with Houzz, an online home remodeling and design platform, and surprised Deann, his “rock” and “hero,” with a renovation of her home in Georgia, and she loved it.

Sonia, who helped make some decisions during the renovation, was with Deshaun Watson when he showed his mother the renovated house. You can watch her reaction in the video above (starting at 17:50).


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