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Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 22d

Falcons' Grady Jarrett praised ex-teammate Deshaun Watson prior to injury

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Hours before news spread of Houston Texans rookie Deshaun Watson suffering a season-ending ACL tear at practice, one of his former college teammates couldn't stop raving about him.

Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who played one season with Watson at Clemson, wasn't the least bit surprised about the success Watson experienced through seven NFL games. Watson earned NFL Rookie of the Month honors Thursday morning.

"It's no surprise for those who have been around him," Jarrett said. "He's a special guy as far as the way he carries himself and the way he handles his business.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud of him and that I didn't take pride in seeing him do well. At the end of the day, if we ever have to face each other, we'll go all out and try to beat each other and get after him. But I'm proud of him, without a doubt."

Jarrett's heart probably dropped when he heard the news about Watson. Another former Clemson teammate, Falcons' pass-rusher Vic Beasley Jr., expressed his sympathy via Twitter:

Even franchise all-time leading receiver Roddy White, who caught passes from Watson when Watson was a Falcons' ball boy, sent out his thoughts to the fallen rookie:

Jarrett remembered watching Watson evolve during the 2014 season.

"He came in against Georgia and his first snap, he threw a touchdown," Jarrett recalled. "Then they took him right out. He ended up starting for us toward the end of the year, then ended up getting hurt.

"But we knew he was a special dude. It was evident in his demeanor; the way the ball came out of his hands, his athletic ability. Most importantly, I feel like his attitude, he's a strong-willed, strong-headed guy that's not easily flustered."

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