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Christian Watson brings big-play ability to Packers' offense

North Dakota State receiver can’t wait to get to work with Aaron Rodgers

North Dakota State WR Christian Watson
North Dakota State WR Christian Watson

GREEN BAY – The Packers dove into their past to find their future at receiver on Friday night.

Twenty-nine years after Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf drafted Howard safety Tim Watson in the sixth round of the 1993 NFL Draft, current Packers GM Brian Gutekunst traded both the team's second-round picks to Minnesota to select his son, Christian Watson, at No. 34 overall.

Christian's story is something of legend in the Football Championship Subdivision, as he parlayed a singular offer to North Dakota State into a two-year All-American college career.

The 6-foot-4, 208-pound receiver helped guide the Bison to four Division I FCS national championships with an explosive playstyle. He generated 57 plays that went 20-plus yards on 180 career rushing, receiving and return attempts (32%).

"This is something that I've dreamed of since I was a little kid," said Watson, who caught 43 passes for 801 yards with seven touchdowns last season.

"Being able to play at the highest level is a goal I set for myself really early and obviously being able to follow in (my dad's) footsteps and be drafted by the same club is extra special to me for sure. It's definitely a surreal experience."

A late growth spurt and strong work ethic saw Watson mature into a big-time playmaker for North Dakota State. He finished No. 4 in NDSU history, averaging 20.38 yards per reception and 26.38 yards per kickoff return.

During the pre-draft process, Watson put any questions about his success against FCS-level competition to rest with impressive showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, where he ran a 4.36-second time in the 40 with a 38½-inch vertical.

It's been no secret the Packers were in the market for receiver help after the offseason departures of five-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams and big-play threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Watson seemed like a logical fit, especially after an impressive pre-draft visit that "confirmed for us everything we thought about him," according to director of football operations Milt Hendrickson.

There was some thought Watson could even go in the first round on Thursday after six receivers were drafted in the top 18. But when Watson was still on the board Friday, the Packers wasted no time anteing up to get their man, sending the No. 53 and 59 picks to the NFC North-rival Vikings to move up 19 spots.

"You have to know where the kid is at every time he's on the field. So just from that standpoint, that's a weapon for our offense," Hendrickson said. "Just collectively, you look at his size, speed, he's played at a phenomenal program and he's used to winning. So there's a lot of things that went into that, ultimately."

While the Missouri Valley Football Conference might not have the same name recognition as the SEC, NDSU has established itself as a legitimate developer of NFL talent in recent years.

So, Watson held his head high when he traveled down to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl in January. He kept a confident mindset that "I was supposed to be there and that I was one of the best of the best and I had every right to be there."

He now takes that same approach to the NFL, believing his athleticism, deep-threat ability and blocking will translate to the pros. A veteran of 11 FCS playoff games, Watson also knows what it's like to compete for championships on a yearly basis.

Now in Green Bay, Watson is excited for the opportunity to start his NFL journey with a future first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"Obviously being able to catch passes from one of the best to ever do it is something I'm definitely excited about," Watson said. "I feel like I'm going to be able to learn and grow a lot through not just him but all the other receivers and everyone else in the organization as well. I definitely couldn't be more excited to go at it with Aaron Rodgers."

As the son of a former NFL safety, Watson grew up with a football in his hands. He laughed when asked whether his dad still owns some green-and-gold apparel, replying "I definitely think he does. That was a big accomplishment for him."

For a kid who flew under the radar in high school, Watson couldn't be happier to build an NFL legacy in a small town that reminds him of Fargo. Whether he's returning kickoffs or starting in Week 1, the 22-year-old wideout is willing to do whatever he's asked to help his new team.

"A motto I've always had is opportunities will come but you only need one," Watson said. "I've just been waiting for a call, waiting for the opportunity. I've been telling myself one opportunity is all I need regardless of when it is, whether it's first round or seventh round. One opportunity is all I need."

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