The Bills needed a difference-maker. It had been 15 years since they’d made the playoffs. So, they gave up three draft picks — including a pair of first-rounders — to move up and land the most impactful talent available with the fourth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack were on the board. So were Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans. But the Bills had another wide receiver in mind, taking Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.
Just over three years later, Watkins was shipped to the Rams. He didn’t have to make the decision so easy.
While the receiver battled injuries during three up-and-down seasons in Buffalo, Watkins now admits that his tenure was doomed shortly after he received a $12.5 million signing bonus and headed to Western New York with multiple friends from his rough upbringing in Florida. “Every night,” was a party. “Every night,” involved alcohol and/or marijuana.
“I would go out and get wasted,” Watkins told Bleacher Report. “Wasted wasted.”
Watkins would go to practice after drinking sessions that lasted until 4 a.m. Sometimes, he’d sleep as little as two hours, then begin drinking again in the morning to numb his depression, sparked by his repeated injuries and struggles to reach his potential.
“I don’t think the world knows what athletes go through off the field,” said Watkins, who most recently won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs. “We have family. We have lives. You have good and bad in your family. I’m like f–king Jesus in my family. I was putting family before football. I wasn’t focused on football. I was like: ‘F–k football. I have to figure out how I’m going to put my family in a position to be successful or not to get killed or not to get in a situation where they can go to jail.
“I was fighting a war outside of football.”
Watkins said he considered retiring when he broke a bone in his foot before his third season.
“Literally, just questioning everything in my life: ‘Am I supposed to be doing this? Is this my purpose? Is this a sign for me to quit football?’” Watkins said. “This is what God’s telling me. I felt like he was telling me to stop. Just stop.”
Though Watkins has never matched the production of his first two seasons in the league, the 26-year-old has become a key part of the best passing game in the NFL, recording 52 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns for the Chiefs last season.
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