Through the 2014 NFL Draft, which will be held in New York, NY from May 8-10, Florida Gators defensive back Jaylen Watkins will be keeping you up-to-date on his Path to the Draft with exclusive blog entries here at OnlyGators.com.
Florida’s third-leading tackler with 52 takedowns last season, Watkins played safety for the Gators after being primarily used as a cornerback – the position he will play as a professional – during his first three years. Watkins started 28 of the 48 games in which he participated but saw the field for starter’s minutes in many of those other contests.
His sixth entry was submitted on Wednesday, one day after he returned to South Florida from Indianapolis, IN, where he participated in the 2014 NFL Combine. Watkins continued to impress and came away with some of the most noteworthy scores in the events in which he was physically able to participate.
On Tuesday, the day of the workout, we woke up at 7:30 a.m. to take some still pictures. You had the option to go see trainers to get taped up or start warming up, or you could just head out onto the field.
My group (11) was the second group of defensive backs, so we were able to watch the other group (10) do the 40-yard dash and position drills while we were waiting to do the broad jump and vertical jump. There was a lot of downtime because the jumps go pretty fast, but you have to wait until the first group is done with their 40-yard dash and positional work before you can even get on the field and compete.
A lot of guys were getting up to run and then sitting down and stretching some more. Being the second group to go was kind of a drag.
I felt pretty good going into the 40-yard dash because I knew I was going to be one of the last guys to go in my group considering my last name begins with a “W.” Instead of warming up and cooling down over and over, I did a lot of sitting around and relaxing in the beginning but began getting ready when my group began to run.
On my first attempt, I stumbled right away and the coach called me back to start again. I knew I only had about three runs on my sprained Achilles, so that first stumble kind of hurt me a little bit. Having to turn right around and run again without letting it calm down a little bit, I ended up running a 4.5 flat, but I thought it was going to be really slow. I was a little disappointed, but I just sat down and let my Achilles calm down a little bit.
And then I said to myself, “On the next one, I’m just going to blast it because it’s my last one.” I wasn’t doing any drill work or anything after that – I saw Adam told you all about that throughout the week – so I could afford to be really sore afterward by giving it my all on my second run.
I decided to focus on my form and make sure I got a good jump. For some reason, the pain level wasn’t that high on that one. I guess my adrenaline was running pretty high.
What you may not know is that they do not tell us our times or scores at the combine. We didn’t know anything unofficial or official after we ran each 40-yard dash. Most of the guys were running back to grab their phones and check Twitter. I did also – well, I didn’t run because my Achilles was bothering me so much [laughing] – I walked back to my stuff and picked up my phone.
For my second run, I saw Adam write on Twitter that it came in as 4.44 seconds unofficially, and I was surprised because I thought I ran it faster. It really felt good. When I found out it was clocked at 4.41 seconds officially, I was definitely excited and proud.
Even though I did not plan on it initially, I definitely had a thought in the back of my head that I might wind up competing in the positional drills, especially after I did so well in the 40. But after I got done running and was standing around on it a little bit, it started getting sorer and sorer, so I stuck with my original plan to wait until Pro Day to do the rest of the workout.
I’m pretty sure by Pro Day I’ll be back to 100 percent. With three more weeks to rehab and train, I’ll be six weeks out from the injury and hopefully completely healthy.
When I got done with the workout, I went straight to my room, got my bags, got on a shuttle and met my agent [Tom Santanello] at the airport to eat dinner before we flew out. For that reason, I did not really get a chance to speak to Loucheiz [Purifoy] or Marcus [Roberson]. I know Loucheiz wanted to run a faster 40 than he did, but I do not know how he felt personally about his performance. I’m sure he’ll be giving it a great effort at Pro Day.
One thing I forgot to mention earlier was how much stuff you actually walk out of the combine with to take home. I brought back a lot of gear, man, it was crazy. We got a lot of Under Armour stuff, a lot of Nike stuff. You could’ve gotten a lot of Adidas stuff if you went to their suite, but I never had the time to do it because I was doing so many interviews and a lot of stretching.
What you do is, you walk across the street to the Omni Hotel. When you walk in, you get a bag and they just start handing out stuff to you. If it’s shoes or gloves or something like that, they ask for your size and go get it and just drop it in your bag. There are also hats, socks, shirts and even headphones – a lot of stuff.
The coolest thing I got were these Under Armour cleats that were all white and very light; I actually used them to run my 40-yard dash. They didn’t give out many of that style, but I was one of the few guys that wound up getting a pair. Considering the time I ran with those cleats, I’ll probably wind up keeping them for a while. I definitely liked them.
The end result coming out of the combine was really positive for me. After the bench press, teams I met with in interviews told me they were impressed that I was able to put up 22 reps. Prior to my 40-yard dash, I know some teams were skeptical that I could run a 4.4-second speed, but I was able to prove that to them. I feel like I am continuing to answer questions and erase doubts just like I did at the Senior Bowl when I showed off my coverage ability and got a great response.
I am already back to my normal routine, making sure my Achilles continues to heal. Now I’m focusing on the positional work I will participate in at the Pro Day – three-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and both my vertical and broad jumps. That should be another very busy week, but I’ll check before then to provide you all with another update!