Brothers honed skills together, played apart

Half-brothers Jaylen and Sammy Watkins went to different high schools and colleges, but they enter the 2014 draft together. Despite their different ages and paths coming from the same neighborhood, they aim to make each other better.

Jaylen Watkins and half-brother Sammy could create a unique scenario in the 2014 NFL Draft – brothers who weren't in the same high school or college class being drafted in the same year into the NFL.

Jaylen is the senior defensive back from Florida who could be a mid-round pick. Sammy is the junior wide receiver from Clemson who could be a top-10 overall pick. It's an interesting dynamic and story.

The last time the two went to the same school was in middle school. Since then, Jaylen went to Cape Coral High School and Sammy went to South Fort Myers High School. They nearly ended up at Florida together, but Urban Meyers' indecision at the end of 2009 and subsequent leave of absence that lasted only a few months screwed that up.

"At the time when I went to Florida, he was interested, really interested," Jaylen said of Sammy. "But that's when Coach Meyer left and then came back, so it was kind of rocky with our coaching staff and (Sammy) just didn't feel comfortable."

Florida fans undoubtedly are upset about that one.

Instead, Sammy went to Clemson, where he most recently put up 101 receptions, 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013, including an incredible 16-catch, 227-yard, two-touchdown performance against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

But while Sammy didn't follow his older brother to Florida, the two of them have practiced against each other plenty.

"In the offseason, we would go against each other and teach each other different things," Jaylen said. "Obviously he's a bigger receiver so that's a plus. He's a faster receiver than most I go against in the SEC, honestly. Having that first-hand experience at home and then after the (practice) rep you can get some first-hand knowledge from both (of us) – me transferring to him and him transferring to me. It works out fine.

"He just tells me the things that he doesn't like (from cornerbacks) and I'm pretty sure if he doesn't like it a lot of other people don't like it. So I try to master those things, like getting my hands on them early, being patient at the line, not inching off, stuff like that."

It must have worked. Jaylen has shown well during in early work at the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Ala., especially on Tuesday.

Early in practice, he stepped in front of a receiver for an interception.

"He kind of got me with a move on me off the line, but I used our technique at Florida and I seen him leaning with an inside release and I knew it was going to be an inside-breaking route," Jaylen said. "I saw him out here and just trusted a key and it worked out for me."

Facing new receivers while learning different techniques from an NFL coaching staff at the Senior Bowl can't be an easy adjustment, but Watkins has handled it well.

"You've just got to be confident as a corner and you're going to make plays. Unless you trust yourself, you won't make any plays and people will keep making plays on you," he said.

Jaylen became acclimated to adjustments at Florida. He was moved around from safety to cornerback to nickel back, but he wants to prove this week that he not only belongs at cornerback, but belongs in the NFL playing that position.

He doesn't know at what point during the draft he will be selected, but he is aiming to increase his draft stock this week and show NFL coaches and scouts he can play cornerback.

It's the position he likes best, but his versatile skill set proved valuable throughout Tuesday's practice. In addition to the interception early in the session, he later he broke up a pass with a well-time swat of the ball with his lead arm, and he also stripped the ball away from Texas WR Mike Davis later in practice.

Sammy has the bigger name (and frame) of the brothers. He is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. Jaylen is 5-11½, 194 pounds and had 52 tackles and seven passes defensed in 2013.

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, only 364 sets of brothers have been documented to play professional football. The majority of the non-twins among those haven't entered into the NFL in the same season, but there have been some of those cases, like Bennie and Brian Blades, and Shawn and Stacy Andrews among them. Only 15 sets of brothers have been documented to play on the same team in the same season.

It's likely a longshot they end up playing together after May's draft, but they succeeded taking different routes to this point.

Because they have different mothers, they grew up in separate households but in the same neighborhood. Because Sammy had an older brother at another high school, they had different affiliations then, too. Now they also have different agents and therefore are training for the draft in separate locations as well – Sammy in Tampa and Jaylen in Boca Raton, Fla.

Still, the early bond from bloodlines and neighborhood interactions will always be there.

"Sandlot football, pickup basketball, we always were playing," Jaylen said. "Anything to do in the neighborhood, we were doing it, whether it was racing, tag, he was there and I was there. We always were close when we were little."

All grown up now, they remain that way – in life and with their NFL draft class.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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