NFL Draft: UMass corner Bryce Watts ‘waiting for this moment all my life’

  • UMass defensive back Bryce Watts left the Minutemen early to declare for the NFL Draft. It was a bet on himself and the talent he's eager to display. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass defensive back Bryce Watts left the Minutemen early to declare for the NFL Draft. It was a bet on himself and the talent he's eager to display. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—Chris Tucci

  • UMass defensive back Bryce Watts left the Minutemen early to declare for the NFL Draft. It was a bet on himself and the talent he's eager to display. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—Chris Tucci

  • UMass defensive back Bryce Watts left the Minutemen early to declare for the NFL Draft. It was a bet on himself and the talent he's eager to display. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • UMass defensive back Bryce Watts left the Minutemen early to declare for the NFL Draft. It was a bet on himself and the talent he's eager to display. CHRIS TUCCI/UMASS ATHLETICS—Chris Tucci

Staff Writer
Published: 4/29/2022 6:46:18 PM
Modified: 4/29/2022 6:44:51 PM

Watching the NFL draft unfold at his uncle’s house in Fredricksburg, Va., will fulfill a dream for former UMass cornerback Bryce Watts.

Not just the lifelong dream of playing in the NFL, an actual dream he awoke from when he was young.

“I had to make it a reality,” Watts said.

His past three months have been focused on dream fulfillment. Watts declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft on Nov. 30, three days after the UMass football season ended with a loss at New Mexico State. He played all 12 games for the Minutemen in 2021, accumulating 43 tackles, four pass breakups and one of UMass’ only two interceptions.

Just a redshirt junior, the Toms River, N.J., native could have played another season with the Minutemen under new coach Don Brown. He didn’t want to wait.

“I was really just ready. I felt mentally, physically ready. My parents were with me making my decision. It was the best decision for me at the time,” Watts said. “I just knew that for me I had been in college a really long time I still wanted to be young. I’ll be 24 going into the league. I didn’t want to be 25 going into the league.”

Watts, who also spent time at Virginia Tech and North Carolina before transferring to UMass, opted out of the 2020 season, so he was really a senior. He doesn’t have his degree yet but only needs to complete one more semester of classes to graduate.

“When I’m done with the NFL, I’ll be finishing,” Watts said. “100 percent. 110 percent.”

He signed with agent — Travis Martz of Caric Sports Management — then flew out to San Francisco for three months to train for UMass’ pro day and the rest of the pre-draft process. Watts worked out with Dave Spitz of California Strength. He played at 170 pounds at UMass but has added 20 pounds of muscle in four months.

“I came into this process blind. I didn’t really know what to expect,” Watts said. ‘I didn’t know anything.”

At UMass’ pro day March 24, Watts ran a 4.39 second 40-yard dash. That would have tied him for eighth in the the fastest defensive back times at the NFL’s official draft combine. He also cleared 37.5 inches in his vertical jump, which would tie for fourth among defensive backs at the combine.

“Adequate size, good athleticism and above-average speed for the position. Watts possesses the physical and athletic profile of a Power Five cornerback but his ball production and stickiness in coverage are both just average by NFL standards,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote on NFL.com “He lacks desired play strength for press and will need to improve his discipline in off coverages. He's both athletic and tough enough for the pro game and should have a chance to state his case in camp.”

After his pro day, Watts returned home to New Jersey to continue training. He’s running and swimming to keep his cardio strong and working with a personal trainer. Nearly a dozen teams have been in contact with Watts ahead of the draft, he said, including the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, both New York teams (Jets and Giants), Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. If Watts is selected, it will be the fourth year in a row a UMass player was picked following Larnell Coleman last year (Miami Dolphins), Isaiah Rodgers in 2020 (Indianapolis Colts) and Andy Isabella in 2019 (Arizona Cardinals).  

He was born a Cowboys fan, but at this point he’ll fall in love with whatever team decides to give him the opportunity.

“I’m not nervous at all. I’m ready. I’ve been waiting for this moment all of my life,” Watts said. “I’ve thought about this moment 1,000 times in my mind and how I’ll react.”

He’s seen it clear as day in his dreams.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


E-Edition & Local Ads


Weather


athol forecast

Social Media




Athol Daily News

14 Hope Street,
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Telephone: (413) 772-0261

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.