DONE DEAL

Inside Deshaun Watson's emotional press conference, one of many surprises

Photo by Getty Images.

HOUSTON — "What's up, D-Dub?" Clemson's head coach Dabo Swinney said with excitement late Saturday evening. The two-time national champion as head coach of the Clemson Tigers was one of several individuals who made a surprise guest appearance via Zoom to congratulate Deshaun Watson on his recent accompaniment.

Nearly nine hours before Swinney jumped on the call, Watson and the Houston Texans agreed to a four-year $160 million contract extension. Under his new deal, Watson can make up to $177.54 million, with $111 million in guarantees. The two parties made history by making Watson the second-highest paid player in NFL history — trailing only Patrick Mahomes and his 10-year contract worth up to $503 million.

Swinney went on to reminisce about Watson's growth from a freshman quarterback who tore his ACL to a national champion as a junior during his three-year collegiate career at Clemson. After Swinney ended his call by telling Watson, "you've got to go perform now," Houston Astros' pitcher Justin Verlander made an appearance to congratulate his good friend.

Inside the NRG Stadium, Watson displayed the same poise the Texans have become accustomed to as his former high school assistant coach, Michael Perry, and good friend Ethan Hughes stopped by to show their admiration towards the two-time Pro-Bowl quarterback. Already high on emotions, it wasn't until Watson saw his family flash across the screen is when the tears began to flow.

"I mean, that's really the only reason why I'm crying is just the moments, the good, the bad, the ugly, the sacrifice from day one, since I was a little kid in Gainesville, Georgia, until now," Watson said while trying to fight through tears. "Like I said before, the money is fine. It's cool. Like [I] told my family told me last night, I didn't do it for the money. That's just something that comes with it. I mean, it's just — it's a lot, for sure."

The words congratulations Deshaun filled the audio call yet again. In the midst of this, a family member encapsulated Watson's full journey by shouting out, "All that grinding, glad it paid off, boy. I'm proud of you." That same grind that began with humble beginnings in Gainesville resulted in the Texans' decision to draft the 6-foot-2 Georgia native with the 12th overall pick during the 2017 NFL Draft. Three years later, his grind led to the McNair family extending their belief in Watson as Houston's franchise quarterback through 2025 — at the very least.

"The biggest thing is for the McNair family, O.B. [Bill O'Brien], and Jack [Easterby] to just trust in me and believe that I'm their guy, I'm their quarterback is the biggest thing that really touches me," Watson said. "Growing up from where I'm from, there's not too many people that make it out, and so for them to just trust me really means the most. That's the biggest thing."

Obviously, Watson earned his contract extension due to his on-field talents. Since his arrival in Houston, Watson has already established himself as the Texans' best quarterback in franchise history. Bouncing back from a knee injury that limited him to seven games during his rookie season, Watson has recorded a career 9,716 passing yards with 71 touchdowns, while setting a franchise record 14 rushing touchdowns for a quarterback.

However, it was his character off the field that furthered solidified the Texans' decision to extend their confidence in Watson. Head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said Watson's persona and hard work embody the model of the type of player the Texans want to have within the organization. Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Jack Easterby, raved about Watson's gift as a good friend, great communicator and a leader both on and off the field.

With a lengthy contract extension, Watson will continue to focus on building his legacy in a city he is happy to call home. It's a winning legacy that has witnessed Watson capture a state championship at Gainesville High School and a national championship at Clemson.

Through the tears of joy that filled the Zoom called, Watson said his mother, Deann Watson, reminded him that the journey to lead the Texans to their first Super Bowl championship continues this Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"She [Deann Watson] said, 'Congratulations, but you've got a game to win Thursday and you've got a championship to go get.' And then she started getting into all the other stuff. I mean, having that mother that understands my priorities and my goals in life, I mean, it's amazing. It makes life a lot more easier, so it was awesome." — Watson.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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