Sophomore tight end Asa Watson is still adjusting to playing special teams in college, it's something that he was not accustomed to doing at Rock Hill (S.C.) High School. However, Watson made one of the biggest plays of the game against Georgia Tech on special teams when he got through the Yellow Jackets' protection and blocked a punt that Jarvis Williams scooped up at the one-yard line and took in for the game's first points. It was the first time the 6-4 and 225-pounder had ever blocked a kick and was crucial in the Pack's 45-28 win over the defending ACC Champions.
"I got my whole hand on it so, when I hit it, it bounced to the right," he said. "I thought I was about to scoop it up for a touchdown, but [Williams] got there. That was good for him, though, it was good for him to get his first touchdown [of the year]. I was just glad we got to it as a team, it's a credit to the team and what we've been doing in practice."
Watson saw a weakness in the Georgia Tech protection on their first punt of the game, and took advantage of it when he blocked their second attempt with 1:48 left in the first quarter. On the first punt, only one side of the Pack's front line brought the pressure, but the coaching staff knew the home team was trying to break in a new punter, so they brought the house on the second attempt.
"On the first one, I saw they shifted over a lot, leaving their left side pretty open, there was only one person in front of the punter," Watson said. "The second time, we did all in so all of us were rushing, I felt we put a lot of pressure on him. He had only kicked one punt in the season before that game, so we wanted to put as much pressure on him as possible.
"I just came to the left side, kind of tilted in and dove out for it, I was just glad I connected. It worked out pretty well."
Although special teams was a new thing for Watson when he got to college, it is something that he has grown to love. He says playing on the front line of the punt return team is his favorite role, taking him back to his days as a defensive end. He enjoys the sheer simpleness of applying as much pressure as possible and having a limited assignment outside of that.
"I did some [special teams] last year, so I'm kind of used to it now," he said. "But, I wasn't even on punt return in high school. [I like] just having my hand on the ground, rushing somebody, not having to worry about blocking or catching a pass. It's just running towards the ball with reckless abandonment, that's a lot of fun."
Watson played in nine games as a true freshman last season, seeing most of his action on special teams. He also hauled in a six-yard reception against Gardner-Webb and played a season-high 37 snaps against Murray State. Most importantly, though, he learned a lot playing behind All-ACC tight end George Bryan and then-senior Matt Kushner.
"Last year was tough being the third string, but it was a really good learning experience for me," he said. "I learned a lot. All of that carried into this year, as well as the work we put in during the offseason. It's a lot of fun and I'm learning still from George and Coach Bridge."
As if that was not enough mentors for Watson, who is one of six children, there are many places he can turn outside of the program for help. His oldest brother, Ben, played six seasons with the New England Patriots and is currently with the Cleveland Browns. The brothers talk before every game the younger sibling plays. Their father, Ken, also played collegiately, earning academic all-ACC honors as a linebacker for Maryland in the 1970s.
So far in 2010, Watson has appeared in all four of the Pack's wins and has already played one more game snap then he was in for all of last season. Watson played the most against Western Carolina, notching 27 plays, but also saw consistent action against Central Florida and Cincinnati. Although he was in for only seven plays against the Yellow Jackets, it was plenty of time to record to the biggest play of his young college career.
"I'm just looking forward to the rest of the season, I've been having a lot of fun out there," he said. "Our start is great. We haven't been 4-0 in a long time so it's great to do that for the Wolfpack."
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