Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson toured Jerusalem Thursday and said that while he’d had no expectations before his first trip to Israel, after only a few days the visit already had a major impact on him.
“It’s definitely a life-changing experience for you to really feel the energy of Israel and especially Jerusalem,” Watson said during a stop at the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City. “It’s made my spiritual side a lot stronger.”
Asked if he might come back in the future to play football in Israel, Watson was affirmative. “I hope so, that’s the plan. Hopefully I can bring some type of football games over.”
Although he has been practicing for months, Watson took a break from football to make the trip before the Texans training camp opens on July 25. A devout Christian who wanted to see Israel first-hand, he arrived on Tuesday with a small entourage for a private tour co-sponsored by America’s Voices in Israel, a US group that organizes week-long missions to Israel for prominent Americans.
After waking up and working out at his Tel Aviv hotel early morning, Watson is whisked around the country to see key sites and Christian holy places such as the Jordan River, where he was baptized on Wednesday.
Israel has its own American football league including a stadium in Jerusalem donated by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is also in Israel this week to receive the Genesis Prize and is leading a delegation of 15 current and former Patriots players to Israel.
Kraft, an ardent supporter of Israel who has brought NFL all-stars to Israel in the past, is receiving the $1 million award Thursday in recognition for his work that “strengthens the bond between Israel and the Diaspora.”
Watson said the game of football had lots to offer to Israel including “unity, bringing everyone together.”
“It’s one of those great events where regardless of your race, religion or where you come from — it brings everyone together for a couple of hours and everyone supports each other and you have fun.”
On the Tower of David Museum’s roof in Jerusalem Watson got a short briefing Thursday on Israeli high-tech from Jonathan Medved, the CEO of OurCrowd, a leading Israeli equity crowdfunding platform that has an investment fund for sports tech.
But Medved said he wasn’t interested in Watson as an investor, despite the first-round draft pick having a multi-million dollar contract with the Texans.
“There’s plenty of money out there — we’ll get the money from the [team] owners,” Medved said.
“For us as sports investors the ability to get input from these guys is more valuable than their money. You get a different perspective from a player who’s on the front lines,” Medved said, noting that the National Football League uses Israeli technology.