By: William Carroll
When most fans think about the running back position they often think of: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles or “Shady McCoy.” To go back a bit further: Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Barry Sanders, further still: Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Franco Harris, Tony Dorsett and even further back we find: Joe “The Jet” Perry, John Henry Johnson, “Aches, Pains” Olly Matson and the greatest of all time, Jim Brown. Backs of all shapes, sizes and styles have had success, sprinters like O.J Simpson Eric Dickerson and Matson, juke artists like Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin and Faulk, the speed, power, agility blends like Sweetness, Franco, LaDainian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James. But there’s something that’s pure, visceral and simple about the power runners Bettis, Earl Campbell and of course Jim Brown.
Now if I tell you a running back’s nickname is “Dump-truck” could you guess his running style without knowing anything else? I bet you could. Nikko Watson at one point had ballooned to about 280 pounds, but he’s worked hard to slim down almost 30 pounds. He had a great 2015 in 11 games he had 262 carries and tallied 1196 yards for a 4.6 yard per carry clip and 14 scores, he added 7 catches for 46 yards, 6.6 yards per catch. Many scouts see a fullback when they look at Watson, he has real power as a runner, to become a NFL fullback he’ll need to work on his hands and blocking.
- I have had the pleasure of watching your career from your time at Western Illinois. What would you say are the 5 biggest and best lessons you’ve learned on your journey?
Nikko Watson: The things that I’ve learned while playing at Western Illinois is how to handle adversity when you hit rock bottom, it definitely builds character and it made me a better person. I also learned that the game is bigger than myself and that I [was] representing my family and friends back at home in Rock Island.
- The next question, you played for Vic Boblitt at Rock Island High School, what was that program like and what kind of coach was he?
Nikko Watson: Playing for Coach Boblitt brought out my full potential as a football player and as a man. He taught life lessons that reached far outside the football field. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here right now and that is why I cherish football so much more.
- Who were your major rivals?
Nikko Watson: Back in High school our major Rival was Moline who were our cross town rival who we knew we had to beat no matter what unless the whole season was lost. In college our two major rivals were Illinois St. and Southern Illinois. When we played those team the football atmosphere was crazy, Battle for Illinois!
- Your home area is loaded with talent Roger Craig and Ken Anderson to name a few who are some of the best players you played with or against while you were in high school or growing up?
Nikko Watson: The best player I actually got to watch in high school and play against in college was David Johnson. We both played in the Quad Cities area with him playing on the Iowa side and me playing on the Illinois side in high school and college! He was player of the year of the Quad Cities area then following year I was. He definitely goes down as the best I played against.
- What was your recruitment process like, who was interested and how did you choose your school?
Nikko Watson: Coming out of high school I was listed as an athlete to a lot of schools. I had offers to play linebacker from Ball State and fullback for North Dakota St. But my heart was stuck on running the ball at the time and Western Illinois gave me the best opportunity to keep toting the rock!
- What was the best game and the biggest play you made as a high school player?
Nikko Watson: 1st round of the playoffs against DeKalb high school and were down 20 points going into the 2nd half and I end up scoring 5 touch downs including the game winner in double-overtime to secure the victory for my team.
- What was you big “Welcome to College Football” Moment?
Nikko Watson: My debut game starting as a true freshman against Youngstown State, I ended up with 150 yards and 1 TD. That game gave me the confidence that I can play at a high level.
8. What is your current height/weight and what are your testing numbers?
Height: 5’11 1/8”
40 Yard Dash: 4.85
20 Yard Split: 2.84
10 Yard Split: 1.69
225 Lb. Bench Reps: 20
Vertical Jump: 29”
Broad Jump: 8’07”
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.57
3-Cone Drill: 7.79
9. How have the systems and staffs at your school impacted your development?
Nikko Watson: Coming from a small school it made me work a lot harder because we didn’t have the best equipment, but I never made excuses and worked hard with what we had. Just having that chip on my shoulder made me that much better.
10. Which coaches have had the greatest impact on you and why?
Nikko Watson: I would have to say both of my running back coaches had a great impact in my life on and off the field. Coach Kijuan Ware was my coach freshmen and sophomore year. He built the foundation and had a big part when it comes to making me believe that I was the best. My other running back coach Steven Crutchley brought a different element to my game, while also helping me build my character as a man. I never met a coach who does so much for his players. From day 1 he’s always been real with me and that made me a better player and man.
11. How hard was to adjust to the verbiage, system and play-book and when did you feel 100% comfortable?
Nikko Watson: It wasn’t that hard for me to adjust, coming from Rock Island the main thing my coach taught was how to be coachable and how to learn on the fly. I never shy away from asking questions when I’m confused but overall I’m all ears when the coach is teaching.
12. Who have been your favorite teammates, and why?
Nikko Watson: I have to say Larry Harris just because we both played at the same high School and then we both decided to play together at Western. That’s my brother for my life.
13. Who have been your favorite opponents and why?
Nikko Watson: I love when we played Illinois St., Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, just because when we played the games were turned up to the max and everyone came out and supported.
14. If you could put together a list of your favorite players to watch or emulate, who is on that list and why?
Nikko Watson: I have to go with “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch. he’s definitely one of my favorite players. I watch his highlights all the time and he reminds me of the back in the day running backs when they just used to run mad and run people over.
15. What NFL team[s] are your favorite[s] and why?
Nikko Watson: I grew up as a Chicago Bear fan, all my family are Chicago fans. I live 3 hours away and the Chicago Bears have a very strong fan base here in the Quad Cities.
16. Which NFL players do you think your game most closely resembles and why?
Nikko Watson: I have to say Mike Tolbert and Michael Turner; both are bowling balls who will run through anything. I definitely like Tolbert’s game and the way he is used to doing just about everything the Panthers ask him to do. These are the guys I think has the same running style as me.
17. When football is over what would you like to do with your education?
Nikko Watson: I would like to open up a gym of my own and start non-profit organization for kids in my community to [help them] attend college.
18. Finally, if you could go back in time to talk to 17 year-old you, what would you tell him?
I would tell myself to go all out for my dreams and work to be the best person/player that I can be.
19. And what would you do differently if you could do it all over again?
Nikko Watson: I would change some of the priorities that I had at the time and make them into the ones that I have now but overall wouldn’t change anything.
20. What [if any] is/are your nickname[s] and how did you get it/them?
Nikko Watson: “Dump Truck” because of my huge legs and the style of running I present.