GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- The color of a street sign has led a Georgia town to take on the federal government.

Gainesville High School goes by the Red Elephants - or Big Red. So when city officials wanted to honor one of the school’s greatest stars, they used a red street sign. Then they got a letter from Washington.

He’s a national champ and a local hero. Gainesville grad Deshaun Watson quarterbacked the Clemson Tigers to 2017’s college football title. And he used a post-game interview to shout out his hometown.

Last month the city returned the love … unveiling Deshaun Watson Way.

“He’s just an outstanding young man that has made us very proud,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

They honored him with a red street sign but it soon drew a federal response.

“Our sign, Deshaun Watson Way, was out of compliance,” Mayor Dunagan said.

The Federal Highway Administration mandated they replace the red sign with a green one. The national manual says that “street name signs are to have a green background with white legend.” It does allow for alternative background colors but red is not one.

Red is limited to prohibition signs like “Do Not Enter”, “Yield”, and the stop sign on which this one sits. Dunagan was bothered by something else.

“If we did not remove our sign, they would cut our federal funding,” he said.

The letter from DC said that failure to comply “jeopardizes the future use of federal funding.”

“We all think they got bigger and better things to do than involve themselves in a small community that’s trying to honor an outstanding young man,” Dunagan said.

City officials did change one sign - the green one on the street leading to the school. But the one on school grounds?

“This one’s staying,” the mayor said. “Going to stay right where it is.”

Mayor Dunagan said it will be up to the U.S. Department of Transportation to take the sign down. But he doesn’t see that happening.