Draft Buzz: Catching up with UAB WR Austin Watkins
University of Alabama-Birmingham, Wide-out, Austin Watkins, seems like he was born to play NFL football. While he has all the tools you look for in a receiver, strong hands, clean route running, and a willingness to do the dirty work. It is his mindset that sticks out when talking to the rising star. I was humbled to sit down with the recent Senior-Bowl, invite, and pick his brain on his playing style? How did he land at UAB? Who he is on and off the field? and advice he may or may not receive from his all-pro cousin, Kansas City, WR Sammy Watkins?
But Before I sat down with Watkins, I reached out to a scouting source of mines, and asked him his take on the Florida product?
“Really, the kid can do it all. To me, he is an underrated prospect, and I do not say that lightly. I mean you never know when a player goes or if he gets drafted, but I believe he is a future draft pick. I love his tape, it is a fun watch. He is fast, strong, and has an aggressive nature you love from a wide-out. He can block, and I think I like it the most. That he seems to like it, he seems to like going after someone to hit them and block in the run game. I also like his play when he has the ball in his hands. He can run, but not just fast or for the heck of it. but he runs with a purpose, and he has a toughness you have to love. Great hands, good route running but could work on it. No one is perfect, but I like what he does. He has great size and can body up a defender. He can play over the middle in traffic. He does the dirty nasty work. You can’t help but smile the way he finishes runs or plays. I think we see him on Sundays. I know I shouldn’t say it, but personally, I like him more than I did his big cousin, Sammy. Now is he going to be him, only time will tell.”
Talented and humble, Watkins, is a rare type of star wide-out. He isn’t the loud-mouthed stereotype, we see at times. I asked him about his play on the field? Also who he was outside of football?
“Well, I feel like my playing style is a hard worker. That’s the way I face it every day. I take what I do and work my heart out, every day. That spills on to the field. You can tell that I work my butt off when you see me play. I don’t want to be outplayed, or outworked. I think my style is aggressive but smart. I like to play fast and beat the man in front of me, physically and mentally. As far as who I am on the field and off, I am not a talker. I mean I am sure of myself, but I feel like God could take it all away at any moment. So I approach it very humble. I take pride in what I do, and who I am. I am a family guy, family first really. You know you just never know who you can trust, but family is different. So family guy definitely. On the field hard worker, and a dog. A guy who will get the job done. Off the field, I am a family guy, I am a fun guy, but I don’t go crazy with fun, I stay low-key. Don’t look for trouble. That’s about it.”
With his tools, and skill set, Watkins has the look of a legit star at the collegiate level. Possibly the next level. But when you watch his tape, you see a guy who can separate at the top of routes. Has a quick twitch to him, and a guy who can make a player miss. After seeing him play I wondered why he didn’t go to a big-name school like Clemson? Moving forward I asked him what led him to play at UAB?
“Honestly like I say I am a family guy, you know family first. That’s how I felt when I came to see the school. I came to a camp when I was in high school. I stayed in the dorms with my cousin and I got to see what it was really like. I think I knew then that I was going to go to UAB. I feel like really, they were the first to show they really liked me, that really wanted me. That stood out to me. I like that they stayed with me from the jump, and has been ever since. So I ended up here. One of the best things that happened to me. Honestly, I am happy I came here.”
When watching his game film, it is simple to fall in love with his skill and the potential he brings to a team. You start daydreaming of him playing for your own personal favorite team. But even with his skill set, it is his personality and humble approach to life that stands out to me the most. Much like his superstar cousin Sammy Watkins, he was just easy to talk to and easy to like. I asked him where this personality came from? and if he ever reached out to Sammy for advice?
“You know really, this is just who I am. My family raised me that way, and you know coming up the way I did, it is easy to be humble. I don’t care about all this noise or talk about me being in the draft, or getting drafted. I mean that’s nice and all, but I stay focused on my life, and what I can control. I work on getting better every day, and not pay attention to all the talk. As far as Sammy, yeah I have talked to him. He is always giving me good words to live by. he is a great player, but an even better person, and I learned a lot just from seeing him and how he carries himself. As far as words of advice? he says to take things one day at a time really. Don’t lose my focus, and don’t worry about what anybody is saying to me, or doing. Honestly, he says that I should always be the best version of myself, and not concern myself with anything else. So that is some of the things he says to me. I learn a lot from him. Not just words, but how he acts around people, and on the field. I watch his playing style. I learn a lot.”
Although you will probably never hear him say it, Austin Watkins is a star in the making. That will be coveted in this year’s NFL Draft. Like I always say Just put on the tape and let it speak for itself. Watkins has that IT factor, and after the Senior Bowl, this year. Watkins will be a legit factor in this year’s draft.