by Marty Caswell
Their efforts sizzled, as the Chargers finished the season with the 31st ranked rushing offense in the NFL, and zero trips to the end zone by their prized rookie.
Could a shaky offensive line muddled by staggering injuries and constant turnover be a contributing factor? Absolutely. But on Saturday afternoon, the Chargers gave their running game and Melvin Gordon a much needed boost when they selected fullback Derek Watt out of Wisconsin with their sixth round selection.
That reunited Gordon with his former college roommate, teammate and the man that paved the way when Gordon ran for 408 yards versus Nebraska in three quarters in 2014. After his record performance, Gordon told reporters “I’m so comfortable with Watt back there.”
The 6’2, 231 pound Watt, the younger brother of Texans star J.J. Watt, couldn’t be happier that he ended up with the Chargers and said he kept up with Gordon throughout visits and leading up to the draft.
So thankful for this opportunity!⚡️#BoltUp pic.twitter.com/fuk8t4M5IE
— Derek Watt (@DerekWatt34) April 30, 2016
“When I took my visit out there it went great. I saw Melvin briefly and after talking to him after I left, he obviously was pretty excited that they even brought me out there and that they were interested…He wants me there, he said he was in his coaches ear, and so I guess it worked out in the end.”
“He was kind of texting me throughout the day saying ‘I hope we pick you, I hope we pick you, and if we don’t, keep me in mind and keep me in the loop if it comes to free agency.’ Luckily we didn’t have to worry about that and it all worked out.”
Watt spoke of the friendship and chemistry he had with Gordon on and off the field.
“Melvin and I were really close. We came in as freshman. The first summer on campus, we actually were roommates. During summer workouts and spent a lot of time with him and his parents were up there a lot and just really got to know him and definitely throughout our career we were in the same meeting rooms and hanging out off the field. It definitely was a blast and we stayed in touch. We’re definitely close and it will be a great time getting out there with him again.”
— Flash | 28™ | A01 (@Melvingordon25) April 30, 2016
“We talk about it, we’ve got that, we already know the way each other kind of thinks, what each other sees. We’ve been in the same meetings. We’ve been involved in the same plays and we communicate what we see on the field. He’ll tell me if he thinks I should have done something differently or if he saw something other than what I saw. And I’ll do the same.”
The Chargers haven’t had a true fullback on their roster since Le’Ron McClain. Last season, that was a role filled by tight end David Johnson. But Telesco says Watt was drafted as a true fullback, citing him as a powerful blocker with the athleticism to adjust to adjust to a linebacker’s hands.
Gordon certainly struggled in his rookie season, not only failing to score a touchdown but was benched by Mike McCoy multiple times, including the entire second half versus the Packers after fumbling twice. Gordon finished the season with 641 rushing yards, zero touchdowns and five fumbles. But Watt was confident the best is yet ahead for Gordon.
“He’s harder on himself than anyone else and he definitely was disappointed. But I think he’s moved past that now and he’s working extra hard and like I said, he’s an extremely hard worker. He more than anybody, is expecting big things out of him this year.”
“He’s definitely an extremely talented guy, he’s got a year under his belt now, so I think that definitely helps him out. I going to go out there and try to help him do it, we’re going to pick up right where we left off, I think.”
There’s nothing the Chargers or Gordon would like more.
One of the first calls Watt received after he was drafted was from his big brother J.J. Watt, whom the Chargers will face in week 12 of the season.
Could not be happier or more proud bro!!! Incredible!!! I’m definitely coming to visit!!! @DerekWatt34
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) April 30, 2016
“We were all equally excited. He called me and was extremely happy and it was amazing. It was a great day.”
Watt was asked who’d knock who out first, no small feat considering his older brother has about 3 inches and 60 pounds on him.
“We’re both going to try to do just that. We’ll see. It might be stalemate. We might just knock each other out…“We definitely have our battles and we compete and all that but at the end of the day, we love each other, we’re brothers, we help each other out, we’ve never really had too many knock out brawls or anything like that so we’ve been pretty good about it.”
But first, he’ll have to make the Chargers roster and Watt said being able to contribute in special teams will be key for him.
“They want a fullback on the roster, a true fullback. But Special teams are going to be a big role for me, I’ve definitely got to make it on special teams and I’ve already had great talks with the special teams coach there, Coach Aukerman. It’s going to be great.”