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 seventh entry was submitted on Wednesday, the day he arrived back in Gainesville, FL to begin preparations for Pro Day, which is open to the public and set for Monday, March 17 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Coming out of the NFL Combine, I’ve spent the last two weeks continuing to rehabilitate and train in South Florida. It was nice to have a break from everything for a bit, but I’m glad to be back in the swing of things.
I actually just got back to Gainesville on Wednesday morning. It feels a little weird to be back, but the first thing I did was go to the stadium even before I went to my place. I went and saw my teammates, Coach [Will] Muschamp and T-Rob [defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson], and everybody in the training room. They were all excited to see me, and it was definitely mutual.
My 4.44-second 40-yard dash was definitely the topic of conversation. A lot of the guys and coaches were saying they were proud of me for what I was able to do in the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine. It was really nice to feel the support.
T-Rob, he’s not too far removed from the game, so it’s definitely easy to relate to a younger coach like him. He’s always excited to see you and full of energy. For those that don’t know much about him from a coaching standpoint, he’s very hands-on, takes a lot of pride in making his guys into top corners every year. The amount he puts on us as a secondary makes things naturally fall into place. You expect to be good. You expect to be the best group of corners in the nation. The expectations he puts on us – no matter who you are, no matter what accolades you have – are serious.
When things get rough – especially handling things mentally like school, off-the-field issues, football – he’s the type of guy who will call you up and find out what’s going on. He’s definitely someone who will intervene if he feels something is wrong and has the players’ best interest in mind. And it helps that he’s on the same page with Coach Muschamp, too.
Spring practice is gearing up for the Gators, and it’s definitely an important time of year for the team. There’s no game-planning, so it’s all about competition and narrowing down who the guys are that Coach Muschamp is going to count on in the fall.
Most of the secondary – basically all of us with the exception of Vernon Hargreaves III – is gone, so the coaches are going to have a tall task to replace so many guys all in one offseason. Jabari Gorman and Marcus Maye, they had some rough patches last year but are experience players who should be very smooth in their communications coming into this year. Brian Poole will probably be at the nickel mostly but should definitely see reps at cornerback as well. The freshman will have a great competition between each other, and Nick Washington is someone to look out for after redshirting last year.
Nick is a stand-up guy. He wants to learn, he goes hard, he does everything coaches ask him to do. Especially as a freshman, a lot of times freshmen tend to go off in their own direction, but Nick is one of the few that actually loves working hard whether in the weight room, training or on the field. He does whatever the coaches ask him to do and loves being a part of the Gators. He’s legit.
Heading into Pro Day on Monday, I’m about 90-95 percent right now with my sprained Achilles. I still have four more days to work on it and get it as healthy as possible, so I’m anticipating being 100 percent.
I’ve been able to do the entire set of field drills on my own, and I’m not having any problems. I would say there’s no question that I’ll be doing them all on Monday, and I’ll give it everything I’ve got whether my Achilles is 100 percent or not.
The only frustrating part of this injury has been that I have to be on my feet every day. If I go to the store, I go home and immediately put ice on it. So I have to stay off my feet as much as possible. Outside of training, I’ve been sitting around and not doing much. I went to the beach once, went jet-skiing another time, nothing too serious because you want to be healthy and have plenty of energy each day. If you go out one night, it’s going to take a toll on you the next day. You want to get the maximum out of your training each day and make the most of your experience.
My agent told me I will have some visits scheduled after Pro Day is over. The first team I will meet with – outside of any of the events I’ve competed in already – will be the Indianapolis Colts, which I will visit with on Sunday when they arrive in Gainesville.
I’ll actually be in town for a while, all the way up to the draft except for when I go home to Fort Myers to visit my friends and family. I have my own apartment, so it will be nice to relax in a place I’m more familiar with while I train with the team and go on visits over the next six weeks. There’s still a ways to go!