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Jaylen Watson: First Career INT Was ‘Surreal Feeling'

Watson's preparation and foresight aligned in the Chiefs' thrilling Week 1 victory over LA.

The Kansas City Chiefs got assistance from some unlikely heroes in their 27-24 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night, and they certainly needed it. Rookie cornerback Jaylen Watson, despite the odds working against him, was one of them.

Watson, who spent some time in coverage against Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams and didn't put out tremendous tape in those situations, finished the contest with four tackles and some otherwise respectable reps in coverage. With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Watson jumped a Justin Herbert pass, picked it off and took it 99 yards back the other way for a touchdown. After the game, Watson recalled how his first career takeaway and touchdown unfolded.

"Me and Justin (Reid), we worked together and the ball just ended up in my chest and I took it home," Watson said. "It was a surreal feeling. [I'm] just so grateful and blessed to be in this position . . . it's a moment I'll never forget."

When fellow rookie Trent McDuffie, the Chiefs' very first pick of the 2022 draft, went down with a hamstring injury last week in Arizona, Watson was the one to step in and fill his role. Once it was known during the week that McDuffie would be going on the injured reserve list, Watson was informed that he'd be replacing him on a longer-term basis. It's uncommon for a seventh-round pick to have such responsibility thrust upon him so early in his career, but Watson doesn't appear to be a normal seventh-rounder.

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Watson's story is far from normal. Three years ago, he ended up de-committing from USC and wound up back in Georgia where he worked under his mother's supervision at a local Wendy's restaurant. After that, he got a second chance in the college football world and joined forces with Washington State. After a pair of seasons as a Cougar, he entered this year's draft with an impressive athletic profile but some major question marks about his professional prospects. Falling to the 243rd overall selection would spell doom for most players, but not Watson. He mentioned his resiliency as something that shines through in how he plays now that he's in the NFL. 

"I'm just a very resilient person," Watson said. "I've always been working for what I had. I was never given anything, and I think that gave me an edge on the football field as well. I just try to carry that edge, show some hunger, show some anger on the football field and let it out on the opponent."

All offseason long, Watson was one of many Chiefs rookies to stand out in a positive way during rookie minicamp, OTAs, training camp and even the preseason. His blend of unique size, athleticism and potential is what led many to believe that he'd not only make the team to start the season, but also be one of the highly-regarded reserves who could step in should his superior get injured. That's exactly what's happened thus far in the 2022 campaign, and Watson is taking advantage of the opportunity he's so grateful to receive. 

Watson admitted that he was a bit surprised that he logged an interception against the Chargers. Virtually everyone else in his shoes would be, too. Rookie seventh-round picks aren't supposed to have success in Weeks 1 and 2. They're supposed to get played off the field or not even be on the field to begin with. Again, though, Watson may not be normal. That applies to his mindset, too, and he said after the biggest game of his football career, even while the element of surprise existed, that he knew something like this was going to happen.

"I woke up knowing that I was going to get a pick, honestly," Watson said. "I just knew, being a seventh-rounder and having my first start, I was going to get tested a lot — and early. I just felt like I was going to get one today, and that's what happened."