(Photo: University of Michigan Athletics)
Delaware Sports Blitz will be highlighting athletes who train at the athletic training gym, Alpha Training. The first athlete up is former University of Michigan defensive back and current Jacksonville Jaguars player Brandon Watson.
Our interview took place a couple days before the draft and we talked everything from his early beginnings in football, finding his place at University of Michigan and what makes Alpha Training different from other athletic training gyms.
Watson’s journey in football started in third grade where he ” played because he liked the contact of the sport.” Then Watson went on to play at Red Lion Christian Academy and later Eastern Christian Academy for high school. A lot of the athletes that train at Alpha have come from Red Lion and ECA which include Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Sills, Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood.
Watson Highlights From Eastern Christian Academy
Clip Courtesy of Brian Dohn on YouTube
The Wilmington, Delaware native was a three star prospect coming out of high school and ranked as the 54th best cornerback in the nation in the class of 2014. When it came time for colleges to come calling for Watson, it was University of Michigan “who heavily recruited to him to be a Wolverine”, he says. Watson added that the school ” called every two days” and he committed early in the summer of 2013 to Michigan.
The young cornerback did say that his time at Eastern Christian Academy “made him feel a little more prepared than other commits.” Even with that advantage, Watson said the transition from high school to college football was not easy as he noted ” it is like playing with grown men” and took him a couple years to get settled.
In his first three seasons at Michigan, Watson solidified himself as a clutch special teams performer as he had 43 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. In his senior season, Watson was not only making plays on special teams but on defense as well, as he helped Michigan have a dangerous backfield in 2018.
Watson stats in 2018 was 38 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions ( led the team) ,10 pass deflections and two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
The three interceptions came from Maryland, Notre Dame and Penn State. It was the Maryland and Penn State games where he took the interceptions all the way to the end zone.
When quarterbacks were targeting him, he welcomed the attention and batted down anything that came his way.
The solid special teams and defensive player honed his skills in four seasons under a lot change as Watson had three different defensive coordinators and two different defensive back coaches at his time at Michigan.
When it came time for Michigan’s pro day, Watson’s 40 yard dash time of 4.52 secs would of been tied in the top 20 among the defensive backs who ran in the NFL Combine.
Ultimately, the NFL draft came and went which saw Watson become a undrafted free agent where he chose to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, per Mike Garafolo.
Starting The NFL Journey
The work did not end for Watson after he signed with the Jaguars, as he went back to the gym to get some training in at Alpha Training.
When asked what makes Alpha Training different from other gyms, Watson describe it as coming home because a lot his high school teammates train or coach there and the Director of Operations Jake Atkinson was a teammate of his at Eastern Christian Academy.
Another way Watson feels Alpha is different is how they train and deal with young athletes that train there.
” I just see it as a place that wants to give back and just the way they interact with the kids”, Watson says. ” I was just in here the other day and Josh knew everybody by name when the kids came in, it just felt like a home atmosphere.”
Watson also talked how Alpha’s training not only helps youth athletes develop skills on the field but off field as a well.
” Some programs go into high schools and they are just training kids to leave and then some other programs are individual training”, he says. ” This one is a group aspect where kids come in and form a bond with other people which helps prepare them for other aspects in life.”
Watson adds ” There is so many different ways people can lift weights and the way Alpha does is it with the environment is totally different what I have seen with other gyms.” ” There is not groups of 40 kids trying to get a workout in but not just one kid getting personalized training”, he says. ” It is the environment which how they build and mold kids around.”
Watson also voiced on how Alpha’s group training is important because “in college you do not do personal training, you do it as a team and the person next to you pushes you to be better.”
Clip Courtesy of Alpha Training
Watson also mentioned once his playing days are over he would like to get into coaching because he would like to give back to the community and that gave him an opportunity to play football.
” Definitely, to give back which if it is just coming back here ( Alpha Training) and working out or talking to kids by working with them, he says.” It impacts a kid a certain way and just like when I seen older guys come back when I was little to give back, it gives kids something to look forward to.” Watson adds ” It lets them know they are not restricted to Delaware, Pennsylvania or wherever they are from, that you can go and venture out and do big things.”
As we were on topic of giving something to kids to aspire to, I asked Watson who did he admire when he was growing up? Watson’s answer was a different response from what I was expecting to hear but it was also refreshing to hear it.
” I looked up to older people in my high school, the people that I can touch and genuinely talk to”, he says. ” Like some people look up to Lebron James but Lebron has not done anything for me.” Watson adds ” I am going to look up to the guys older than me who are doing big things who help, coach and taught me things.”
The last serious question that was asked to Watson was what has been his biggest challenge and how he overcome it?
” The biggest challenge I faced is trying to find my spot on the field”, Watson says. ” That has always been one of hardest things of where do I belong on a certain team.” Watson adds ” High school I did not know if I was a safety, linebacker or corner because everyone is the same size in high school.” ” At Michigan, I did not know if I was just a special teams guy or if I played offense or defense,” he says. ” Just trying to find how you can best help the team because not everyone is not Lebron James.”
Watson’s Pick Six Vs Penn State
Just to end the interview on a light note, Watson was asked who was his favorite team to play on Madden which he responded with Rams, Saints and Eagles. Well, we are sure he will play as Jacksonville on Madden this year.
The last fun question was what is you favorite show to watch on TV which Watson responded with Family Guy, Big Bang Theory and Shark Tank.
Just from the time we spent with him, the Jaguars have landed themselves a high character guy who is willing to put in the work to succeed at whatever position he may be at.