Matt Ryan happy for former Falcons ball boy Deshaun Watson

Watson looks ahead to NFL career (0:39)

Deshaun Watson says he wants NFL teams to know that they'll be getting a champion on and off the field if they draft him. (0:39)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan took a moment from talking about Saturday's playoff matchup against Seattle to recognize a familiar face from the past: Deshaun Watson.

The Clemson quarterback, who guided the No. 2 Tigers to a 35-31 victory over No. 1 Alabama for the national championship Monday night, is a native of Gainesville, Georgia. He used to be a ball boy for the Falcons.

"Yeah, for sure, I remember Deshaun being here," Ryan said Tuesday. "He's a great kid. It was impressive. I was pulling for him this entire season. Last night, for sure, he played extremely well. So I'm really happy for him.

"He didn't say much when he was here. He was quiet. He kind of went about his business. He was good for me, though, because he saved my arm a little bit. He would throw to our wideouts during camp and give me a little bit of a rest. I always appreciated that from him."

As Ryan mentioned, Watson worked closely with the wide receivers. Roddy White, the franchise's all-time leading receiver, developed a good relationship with Watson.

"Yeah, he used to throw us the ball all the time, and I used to tease him about going to Clemson," said White, a South Carolina native. "But he used to say he was going to change the culture back then, and he was a junior in high school. He was always a cool, laid-back kid. He deserves everything he has accomplished, because he is an awesome person all the way around, on and off the field."

Maybe Ryan and Watson will square off at some point next season, with Watson declaring for the 2017 NFL draft.

"Me, personally, I think he should be the first player off the board," White said. "And he will win a lot of games in the NFL because he is smart and he is a good athlete. He makes good decisions."

Spending time as a Falcons ball boy appears to have been one of those wise choices.