ESPN’s Desmond Howard weighs in on Deshaun Watson, Heisman hype and Clemson’s legacy

Tuscon, AZ - September 26, 2015 - University of Arizona: Desmond Howard on the set of College GameDay Built by the Home Depot(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

CLEMSON – Desmond Howard knows first-hand it takes more than just a few games to claim college football’s most hallowed individual prize.

The 1991 Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t filled out his ballot yet, not on paper nor in his mind, despite the ridiculous numbers posted by LSU running back Leonard Fournette (73 carries, 631 yards, 8 TDs in three wins vs. Mississippi State, Auburn and Syracuse.)

Fournette for Heisman? As Howard’s colleague on ESPN’s College GameDay Lee Corso might say: not so fast, my friend.

“You hear all this talk right now about Leonard Fournette, and it’s like, man, I’ve seen this movie before,” Howard said in a phone interview Wednesday. “The guy who explodes in September, and everybody’s like, put his name on the trophy right now. I’m not saying he hasn’t been the most impressive player, because he clearly has. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. The ability to keep that up week in and week out for 13 weeks, that’s the challenge.”

For Heisman hopefuls like, say, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, or even his lesser-heralded counterpart in Saturday’s game, Notre Dame passer DeShone Kizer, there’s plenty of ball ahead to sort out the postseason awards.

“It takes consistency,” said Howard, a Michigan product. “You don’t have to win all the games. We didn’t go undefeated (in 1991), but as far as my performance on the field, there was always something where the fans or the voters walked around talking about (me.) That’s what’s important.”

Howard admitted he hasn’t seen much of Watson’s action this fall, waiting to see Clemson take on a higher-profile opponent. But he had high expectations coming out of 2014, Watson’s first year with the Tigers.

“When I watched the kid a year ago, I thought that out of all the freshman quarterbacks in the country, he had the biggest upside,” Howard said. “I thought he had a tremendous skillset for the quarterback position. He’s not just an athlete trying to play quarterback, but really a quarterback who happens to be a tremendous athlete. That’s how I view Deshaun Watson.

“It’s just a matter of keeping him healthy; the kid was always nicked up, and eventually he went out with a knee injury. If he can stay healthy, to me, the sky’s the limit for him.”

Watson and his teammates have played the disrespect card this week, using Notre Dame’s tradition and nationwide fanbase as fuel leading into Saturday night’s top-12 showdown that’s currently a pick ‘em in sportsbooks.

“I’m the type of guy who takes a team year by year on what they do on the field,” Howard said. “I was there the last couple times GameDay was there, huge games (in 2013) against Georgia and Florida State when Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd were there. That shouldn’t judge this 2015 team. It’s a different crew. This is Deshaun Watson and those guys. This is their legacy.”