Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is taking extra steps in Tampa to improve his chances at NFL stardom. Watkins arrived in town right after earning the Orange Bowl MVP in January and immediately went to work.
The NFL has taken notice. Watkins is considered the top college wide-receiver in the draft. Recently he's earned a number one overall rating among this year college prospects, but Watkins believes it's up to him to prove himself to NFL teams. He gets that chance next week at the NFL Combine.
"Now I have to take it to another level to be a great player in the NFL," Watkins says. "It's hard work, but what I understand is that it's the power of preparation, such as getting the right sleep, eating the right way and focusing on the right things in your life. Anything can happen."
It's not just work being done on the field; off the field, there are media coaching sessions, as well as lessons from former pros. It's all because when the NFL Draft comes around, everything matters.
"I am definitely ready to start my new life in the NFL and get prepared," Watkins said. "Hopefully go make big plays, but also be a great character off the field."
Showing he has professional character is a priority for Watkins. An arrest for two misdemeanors his freshman year has given him perspective.
Watkins was pulled over in May of 2012, and police said he had marijuana and two pills without a prescription. He was charged with two counts of possession. The charges were expunged from his record and Watkins believes he's learned a valuable lesson from it.
"I made a mistake," Watkins said. "I'm over that mistake. The great ones can get over that hump and get through it. I'm a better man and a better citizen."
Working with former Bucs Reidel Anthony and Yo Murphy, Watkins is learning to be a pro. Murphy spent 14 years in pro football and played among some of the greats. Watching Watkins, he sees a potential superstar.
"I don't want to disrespect anybody, but I played with Randy Moss, Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, Chris Carter, guys that have the ability to do everything and Sammy is right there in that same slot," Murphy said.
Among thousands of mock drafts, Watkins is all over the board. He's a consensus top 10 pick. Most have him not falling past the Oakland Raiders at number 5.
"We're try not to pay attention to all of the mock drafts," said Tory Dandy, Watkins' agent from Relativity Sports. "Because the teams are going to be the one actually selecting these guys. The general managers, the head coaches, so we just try to keep Sammy and the rest of our guys focused at the task at hand. The task at hand is going to the combine and preparing mentally and physically, to be ready."
"Right now people are going to have opinions that vary from scout to scout, but we are just focused on the Combine," Dandy added.
Born and raised in Florida, Watkins likes where he's at, and Buc fans he's run into have let him know they want him to stay.
"I've heard that a lot of times, every time I see someone out. You've got to be a Buc. You've got to be a Buc. I'm a Florida native and I wouldn't mind going to the Buccaneers and being with those guys," he says.
The Bucs hold the 7th pick in the first round of this year's draft. So if he's going to be wearing pewter and red this fall, the Bucs could have to trade up to get him.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
Didn't find what you were looking for?