The road to the pros in any sport is undoubtedly a hard feat. The amount of time, money and effort needed is often forgotten and pushed behind the curtains. When we look at any pro field today, we see athletic people who are the best at what they do, specifically built and engineered to play their sport at such an intense and high-powered level. They have been shaped and molded for years to become a professional, and have been required to be at the top of their game throughout high school, college and semi-professional levels to get where they are today. There is no doubt that this road to the pros has its bumps and sharp turns. However, for some pro athletes like Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson, this road is swept away and in need of a total rebuild.
Watson was a star football player throughout his high school and early collegiate years. Playing high school ball out of Augusta, Georgia, the cornerback earned himself all-region honors. Not having the offers he desired, Watson decided to attend a junior college to better his craft in hopes of playing division one football. He just did that and was offered by multiple division one football programs and committed to the University of Southern California in 2019. However, his commitment did not last long, as a couple months later Watson dropped out of school due to academic reasons.
In order to support himself and his family, he had no other choice but to work at a Wendy’s fast food franchise with his mother. Watson was at the lowest of lows in his life, as this was the first time he was not playing the game he loved. He was determined to get back into football, and after continuing to work out, he decided to go back to school and get his degree that would allow him to try and play division one football again. He committed to Washington State after getting straight A’s and receiving his degree.
Watson got the starting spot at corner, and was granted an honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 conference as a redshirt junior. He was granted a spot at the NFL scouting combine, where he gained attention from numerous teams. When draft day rolled around, Watson was selected as the 22nd pick of the last round to the Kansas City Chiefs.
After a solid preseason camp, Watson found himself as a backup to first-rounder Trent McDuffie. However, during week one of the regular season, McDuffie was struck with a hamstring injury, making him unable to play. This was the moment that Watson was given his opportunity to make a name for himself, and he sure did that. A week later, in the Chiefs Thursday night crucial inter-division matchup against the Chargers, Watson did the unthinkable. With 10:43 left in the fourth quarter of a 17-17 game and the Chargers at the three yard line, Watson intercepted a pass by Justin Herbert at the one yard line and returned it to the house for a 99-yard pick-6.
Watson got to where he was by simply never giving up on his dream to play professional football. He could’ve easily stayed back in his home town continuing to work minimum wage jobs, but chose to never give up. “On the field and off the field, athletes embody a sense of confidence in themselves and their team,” says Laura Williams of Sports Rec. “This sense of confidence is one of the reasons that athletes make good role models — they show youth how important it is to believe in themselves and those around them.” Players like Watson are what make sports so great. Not only does he uplift others, especially youth, to never stop chasing their dreams, but he also provides such a heartwarming story that you can’t help but love. Behind every player, there is a story, and this is one to never forget.