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Cornerback Jaylen Watson had given up hope that the Chiefs would draft him

Putting himself on the draft radar was a long road for the Washington State cornerback.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cornerback Jaylen Watson — selected by the Kansas City Chiefs with the first of their three seventh-round selections in the 2022 NFL Draft — knows how fortunate he is to have the opportunity to play in the NFL. Speaking to local reporters on the second day of the team’s rookie minicamp, he shared how he had been out of football when he was academically ineligible to transfer from a junior college to USC.

On Mother’s Day, the particular anecdote was very appropriate.

“I had to take a year off because of school,” he recalled. “I ended up going back home for a year. I just couldn’t stay in the house and watch my mom work, so I tried to look for a job. I couldn’t find one. She’s the manager at a Wendy’s, so I ended up working with her. I love her to death, but it was terrible. It’s so bad. You get no breaks away from your mom. You go to work — you’re with your mom. You go home — you’re with your mom. You can’t even talk about work.

“It was just bad. But I still love her.”

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 USC at Washington State Photo by Robert Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Watson eventually caught on with Washington State for the 2021 season, putting himself on the draft radar. The Chiefs hosted him on a top-30 visit last month. The visit left a positive impression on Watson — but after the team spent first and fourth-round selections on cornerbacks Trent McDuffie and Joshua Williams, he strongly doubted the team would take him.

“I wasn’t expecting to go that late,” Watson admitted. “So I was kind of down. Everyone was telling me, ‘Stay off your phone,’ because I’m looking at every draft pick on Day 3 — because I knew I was going to be a Day 3 guy. Everyone just kept aggravating me — and they were irritating. They didn’t understand what was going through my head. So I separated myself from the family. Me and one of my close friends went out to my car. We were just listening to music.

“I had already seen Kansas City had got two corners — and I really wanted to go to Kansas City, so I was like, ‘Maann.’ Then the call. I saw the Kansas City area code. Me and my friend looked at each other, our eyes got super big. They said, ‘This is the Chiefs,’ and I was just so excited. I just started running full speed down the street. Everyone in the house saw me and they were like, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Who is it?’ I was like, ‘It’s the Chiefs!’”

Watson saw Kansas City as a perfect fit for a number of reasons.

“I feel like this is a great position for me,” Watson explained. “[They play] a lot of press — which is usually for longer corners. I love winning. And what better place is a winning place than Kansas City in the past five years. I hate losing — and we’re not going to lose much here, I believe.”

Watson then elaborated on his pre-draft visit with the team.

“It went great,” Watson said of his time in the building. “I talked to Coach Spags (Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) and talked to (defensive backs coach Dave) Merritt. They just wanted to see how much I knew IQ-wise and how much I knew about football. It was great — and once I left, I knew this was where I wanted to be.

“I was just praying the Chiefs got me — and then it ended up happening.”

After getting his wish, Watson is pleased with the playbook he has been spending the weekend learning.

“I love pressing — love getting my hands on people,” he noted. “I live off of physicality. I like to get in my opponent’s head. That’s what I live for — and that’s what we’re gonna do.”

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