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 eighth entry was submitted shortly after his participation in Pro Day in Gainesville, FL. Watkins also began private meetings and workouts.
Heading into Pro Day, I was hoping to be 100 percent recovered from my Achillles injury. I felt good that day, good enough to do the broad jump, vertical jump, shuttle drills and on-field work, which I did not anticipate doing all of those heading into the day. I ended up aggravating it doing those activities, and it definitely started bothering me, but I got some good notes back on how I performed.
The weather played a factor, too. It was nasty last year but dried up before the guys got out on the field. We didn’t know what to expect. The earlier part of the day, looking outside, it was pouring and we didn’t expect to go outside at all. I know it was rough for Marcus [Roberson] and Loucheiz [Purifoy] and the rest of the guys having to run on the indoor track and having things off-schedule. “Out of all the days, it had to rain this day.” You know? It was warm the day before, right after it cleared up as well. But just for it to happen like that was a stroke of bad luck for all of us.
Before Pro Day even began, the night before, I had my first meeting since the combine and linked up with the Indianapolis Colts at the Florida football facility. It was very similar to all of my other meetings. We went over film, got to know each other and they picked my brain on some things over about 20-30 minutes.
When Pro Day was over, I had a workout for the Carolina Panthers and then most of us had another with the New England Patriots, which do a group workout with the Gators every year. It was pretty cool being able to work in front of Bill Belichick. I also met with the Detroit Lions before the week was out.
You work hard in each workout, but they are basically all about going through the motions, seeing how you move. They usually don’t try to kill you but just want to get a feel for you as a player. They are all pretty similar for the most part, so once you do well in one you definitely have the confidence to repeat a similar performance.
I had a bit of a break after the workouts, so I spent a lot of time trying to get my ankle right to make sure it is 100 percent for rookie camp. I’ve been going to the training room every day, getting my normal treatment while also hanging out with some of the guys I was close with from the team over the last few years.
Coach [Will] Muschamp encourages us to come out to practice and watch the team, so I’ve gone out there a few times already. I really like the young defensive backs. Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor are going to be good players for the Gators. It’s interesting watching the leadership develop without all of the veterans on the field, but Florida has some capable guys that will definitely step up.
These freshmen will want to get on the field right away, and it looks like they will have that opportunity, but they also must realize that everyone out there has equal talent. What can separate a younger player is how much he can handle at once. Vernon [Hargreaves III] came in and he understood nickel and corner – I’m pretty sure if the coaches asked him to play safety he would’ve been able to adjust just by knowing football.
The amount of pressure Coach Muschamp and T-Rob [defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson] put on the freshmen makes it be like…you don’t want to be the guy that can’t handle it. When you’re surrounded by a bunch of talented guys like the Gators have in the secondary, it helps you develop quicker. They put the same pressure on you whether you’re a senior or a freshmen, so you either have to put up or shut up.
Check back Tuesday for my next installment!