DL Kevin Watson a Diamond in the Ruff.

When you are looking for sleepers in the NFL draft, you have to travel far and wide to find them; and 6-4/290 defensive lineman Kevin Watson of Occidental College in California is a diamond in the ruff.

Watson is a player who has been Occidental's defensive MVP for four straight years, and that is saying something at any level of football. What's more interesting, it wasn't because Watson couldn't go to a division one football program that Occidental recruited him.

Several WAC and Mountain West teams originally recruited Watson, including Colorado State, San Jose State, Fresno State, and Boise State. He played quarterback and linebacker in high school.

"(I) really thought I was going to Colorado State", explained Watson. "But I just committed too late... and they did not have a scholarship left for me." He found Occidental, which is located in Los Angeles, California, and thought that it would be a good fit for him.

"I wanted to go to a school to get my grades up and get a degree, and Occidental is very strong in academics since it is a liberal arts school in L.A.," said Watson. "It is known for its campus since they have shot movies out here such as Clueless and Orange County."

But Watson also wanted to put Occidental football on the map as well, and he did just that as the 2001 SCIAC Defensive Player of the Year. In his career he has 200.5 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, and 23.5 sacks, and has been a D-III All American team MVP 4 straight years as well as earning many other awards. He also is the SCIAC Track & Field leader in the discus throw (158-10) and also finished in the Top-10 in the hammer throw and shot put last spring.

"When I first start going here, there wouldn't be anyone in the stands or at our games, and people gave us no love. So besides getting the Player of the Year award, putting Oxy on the map - because of me and what I was doing - was great," said Watson. "I mean, professors start coming to the games; people were supporting us by wearing Oxy football hats and other Oxy gear; and I think I had a part of bringing Oxy football back on the map."

Occidental does have a rich tradition of football (dating back to 1894), having produced several impressive football prospects in its history, including Jack Kemp, Jim Mora, and Vance Mueller.

On being the only division three player selected to the Paradise Bowl:

"It was an experience being at the Paradise Bowl because I wasn't used to being around such bigger name players. In the beginning I was kind of nervous because of all the scouts that were there and the big-time atmosphere that was around, that I wasn't used to," said Watson. "But it was cool. I feel like I did a great job. I felt good when guys were coming up and telling me that I wasn't a D-III player."

One thing Watson knew was that NFL scouts were there and that it was his opportunity to show something.

"The scouts were watching everything, from when we were filling things out to guys talking. It was different but I liked it."

Watson and another player from the L.A. area had a Pro Day and 4 teams showed up - the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles, and Atlanta Falcons. Baltimore has come back a second time to Occidental College to work him out and watch game film. Other teams like the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New England Patriots have expressed interest in him as well.

Watson is a player that has a chance to be very productive in the NFL, and the team he ends up with will be very happy that they found this diamond in the ruff.


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