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Wednesday July 1st, 2015 8:55PM

Opinion: Watson walks away from towering legacy

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
History begged a more momentous ending, screamed for a larger stage.

Rarely does reality bow to history, however.

Gainesville walked away from Friday's semifinal loss to Tucker with absolutely no reason to hang its collective heads. The Red Elephants battled and clawed for every inch in a razor-thin contest that came down to the final minutes before an impressive Tigers team pulled out a 20-14 comeback victory.

For so many great Gainesville seniors -- led by perhaps the greatest senior of all -- to finish a game short of the Georgia Dome created a hollow aftermath that could linger for a few days.

Once the pain subsides, however, we'll all take a breath and realize just what we've bore witness to over the last four years. In fact, it's already starting to settle in a little.

The numbers alone beggar belief -- 13,077 career passing yards (state record), 218 career touchdowns (state record), 46 total victories and of course that state championship.

But the true measure of Deshaun Watson's greatness goes way beyond numbers, and anyone who had the pleasure of watching him play -- or the pain of playing against him -- will tell you, he was simply on another level.

We will not see another like him for a long time. And he and standouts like Devan Stringer, Jay Gaudlock, Chastin Newman and plenty more created something special at an already storied program.

"It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to coach someone like him," Gainesville football coach Bruce Miller said of Watson. "I hate to see him graduate. But he's going on to bigger and better things, and I hope we will too."

It should tell you something that, even after edging past Gainesville in the last minutes of a game that threatened to turn into a swim meet in the fourth quarter, a number of Tucker players gathered round the quarterback to shake hands and share a moment.

They too know his greatness.

And yet it should tell you something even more that, after the game, emotions still pouring forth, Watson's thoughts were only of the Gainesville program and his teammates -- the pride he feels for both evident as he talked of a never-say-die attitude and desire that so nearly sent the Red Elephants back to the turf of the Georgia Dome.

"This game showed the effort and the heart that we have here at Gainesville," said Watson. "We just couldn't pull it out in the end and that happens sometimes."

Players like Watson, however -- and runs like Gainesville's over his time at the school -- don't happen that frequently.

The Red Elephants will move on; they are a proud and tradition-rich program that will most certainly re-load over the coming months in preparation for 2014. But even Gainesville knows it will be near impossible to replace a player of Watson's ability.

It has been a to pleasure watch.

-- Morgan Lee is sports editor for Access North Georgia.com
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All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
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