The Colts Prospect Interviews are still going strong after the Combine this last week. Today’s player interview is with Maryland LB Tre Watson. The Colts need some more depth behind Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker and the speedy Watson would be an excellent fit. The interview will be towards the bottom of the page as we talk about his transfer from Illinois to Maryland, his academics off of the field, and how he led the Big Ten in tackles last season.
6’2” 236 pounds
296 total tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, and 3 forced fumbles in his career.
Fit with the Colts:
The Colts have two excellent starting linebackers in both Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker while both Zaire Franklin and Matthew Adams also proved they could be valuable depth players for the team. Going forward though, they could stand to add more depth and speed to the unit. Watson is a very athletic linebacker who can make plays in the passing game. His game is eerily similar to Leonard’s in a sense that he is a ball magnet who can rack up a ton of tackles. He may not be a starter for this team but he could be valuable depth that wouldn’t miss a beat if an injury were to ever happen to Leonard or Walker.
Watson put his skillset on full display during the Shrine Week this year. His athleticism and tackling ability really stood out.
Notice the speed and physicality that he brings in the run game. Flies downhill and makes a ton of plays.
Maryland LB Tre Watson, an Illinois grad transfer. Will be at Shrine practices in a few weeks. pic.twitter.com/MERxjhB5dM— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 3, 2019
Has some upside in coverage as well. 5 interceptions in his final collegiate season with Maryland.
Maryland LB Tre Watson. Special talent in coverage. Here, he's reading the play pre-snap, pointing out the TE, and then sitting on the route. This was a pick-6. pic.twitter.com/g1IZHEvXkz— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) January 9, 2019
ZH: You initially decided to attend Illinois University out of high school. What made you decide to transfer to Maryland after four seasons with Illinois?
TW: The environment that I came into at Illinois had a lot of things change, we went through a lot of coaching changes, scheme changes, and just the environment was no longer what I thought was best for me to be successful and I was just looking for a new place where I could do that. Maryland just was the right place and right time. People who were gonna support me, get the best out of me, and give me an opportunity to be successful and carry football forward. It just worked out very well.
ZH: I do have one question about Illinois though. Colts defensive line coach Mike Phair was the D-Line coach/ Co-Defensive Coordinator for them during your time there. What was he like as a coach for you?
TW: I had a great relationship with Coach Phair, its funny that you ask that because nobody has talked about him since I’ve been going through this, but I had a great relationship with him when he came in. We talked a lot and originally he was going to be our Defensive Coordinator going into my Sophomore year and it ended up changing with more coaching changes but he and I talked a lot. We were on the same page about a lot of things but I enjoyed having him as a coach and he brought great energy. I felt like guys really fed off of him and really enjoyed his presence.
ZH: Stepping off of the field, I see that you were All-Academic Big Ten four times and that you are pursuing a Masters in Public Health. Are academics and medicine two things that are very important to you?
TW: School is always something that I’ve always taken a lot of pride in and wanted to be as successful as I could be on and off the field. Being productive in the classroom has allowed me to do that. My focus in undergrad was pre-dental, community health was just my major but pre-dental was really my focus. Long term, dental school is something I wanna do after football and become an orthodontist is something I aspire to do moving forward.
In terms of getting the Academic Honors and stuff, I was honestly disappointed I wasn’t able to make Academic All-American this year. I don’t know what more I exactly I needed to do to get there but that was kind of like the only thing left on the table in terms of academic accomplishments I aspired to reach as a kid.
ZH: After an excellent Senior season where you led the Big Ten in tackles, you were invited to the Shrine Week. How was that week for you?
TW: It was great. I think it was productive in terms of what I can get from the experience, playing against high level also draftable players and being able to prove that not only I belong but that I can stand out against those type of guys. I feel like I was able to get everything that I looked to get out of that week and really enjoyed just one last chance playing especially being able to play at home in front of a lot of people that supported me my entire career. It was just an all around valuable experience.
ZH: You were one of the biggest combine snubs this year. Was it disappointing not getting the call?
TW: Yeah I mean, it definitely was. That is something that when you are a little kid, you watch on TV saying that hey those guys are at the combine. You know there were 41 guys participating in the linebacker group this year and to think there’s 41 guys who would be selected ahead of me is obviously... I mean I wouldn’t say.. I mean it is kind of insulting but at the end of the day I understand there’s a lot of things that go into that and I just take it with a grain of salt and move forward. I did my part to be able to earn it and someone else felt that there were other people more deserving. It is what it is and just gotta move forward and take advantage of the opportunities I still have.
ZH: Going to your film, your run defense and tackling stand out. What is the key to getting so many tackles and always being around the ball?
TW: It starts with having a mindset of being someone who looks for the ball, looks to make plays, and not just being out there taking up space on the defense. The thing about tackling is you can get there 200-300 times but if you don’t know how to tackle or how to use your leverage and angles and be physical at the point of attack then its kind of useless.
So the biggest thing that I have always pride myself on knowing how to tackle properly and being someone who is willing to do so and is looking to make every tackle whether or not it is necessarily my job on the play or not. I wanna be someone who always is contributing and making that play.
ZH: Your Senior season, you racked up 5 interceptions which is 4 more than you had in your entire career. Was Maryland’s scheme better for getting picks or did you make an effort to improve that part of your game?
TW: I’ve always been someone who felt extremely comfortable in the pass game, especially being an underneath zone defender. If you are comfortable in that, you can manipulate quarterbacks and use those zones to make disruptive plays. I would say the scheme was part of it just in terms of being very simplistic at Illinois to where there weren’t as many opportunities when you are playing man coverage 70-80% of the time, you aren’t gonna be able to make plays in zone because you aren’t in zone.
So there were certainly more opportunities (at Maryland) and then its about taking advantage of those and being in the right places at the right time to make those plays which I was fortunate enough to do this year.
ZH: What are instincts for a linebacker? People always talk about instincts but its hard to truly grasp it unless you are on the field.
TW: Instincts are a combination of a lot of things. You are playing a sport of football and especially the linebacker position and it is as physical as it can get in terms of whats required of you and then on top of that, it’s combining that willingness to seek out contact and look for those things with a knowledge of the game, knowledge of your defense so that you are where you need to be all the time and you know what you are reading and you know where your keys are. That allows you to play fast and look like you’re knowing the play before it is really run when in reality you are just knowing where you need to be and you have no hesitation in your ability to get there.
All of those things combine to make really what are instincts. Part of it is natural, like the willingness to do it, but another part is being prepared and knowing what you are going to get from teams as well as just knowing where you fit in your own defense.
ZH: Just 5-10 years ago, you would be considered undersized or too small to play LB in the NFL. With guys like Darius Leonard, Ryan Shazier, and even Luke Kuechly in a sense dominating the NFL, do you think that has paved the way for “smaller” linebackers to find success in the league?
TW: I think the game is just changing in terms of how offenses run and what you need on defense so yeah the bigger, stockier type of players just are being phased out in some ways and you need to be able to do more than just one thing. Being able to be versatile, being able to be physical in the run game as well as being able to make plays in the passing game when you are on the field on third downs so you aren’t just a two down guy. Anytime they have 11 personnel and wanna throw the ball, the team has to worry about if he’s gonna get beat across his face or beat down the field for a big play. That makes you a liability.
That is the biggest thing though, whether you are big or small— obviously smaller guys tend to be faster— but there’s guys at the combine who were 6’4” 250 pounds running 4.5/ 4.4 so they are getting all types of freaks. It’s just being able to apply that to your game and being able to make plays.
ZH: Which NFL player do you model your game after/ compare yourself most to?
TW: I feel like I’ve always wanted to play how I wanted to play, I don’t necessarily model my game after anybody. What I will say though is that a willingness to be physical and tenacious on the field is what is required especially in the position that I play. I’ve always loved guys like Patrick Willis, who was ferocious out there and would do damage to guys on any given play. Ray Lewis was known for that as well.
Being able to make big plays, guys like Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly, who are just always involved in the game whether it is making a tackle, breaking up a pass, blitzing, getting interceptions... Just being able to be a guy who on any given down can make the play that is the difference between winning and losing. That is the kind of player I pride myself in being.
ZH: Last question for you. The Colts need some depth in the linebacker group. They need a guy who can sub in with Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker and not miss a beat if they have to miss some time. How would it be for you to play with those guys and do you think you could be the guy who could step up if they missed time?
TW: Playing with great players at any time is always more rewarding. There’s stuff you can learn from them, there’s things they can learn from you, and you feed off of the energy with other guys playing really well. I’ve worked out with Darius down here in Tampa so obviously I have a prior relationship with him from that and obviously he had a tremendous season this year and I know Anthony has developed into a role there as well (I played against him back when he was at Northwestern) so there is familiarity there as well.
Being in a room where it is competitive and where guys are also being extremely productive and impactful makes everyone want to play better and be the guy who wants to step up and make the big contribution for the team. That is something that I would definitely look forward to and look to embrace the competition like I’ve always done so that would certainly be appreciated and I would certainly attack that.