The Buffalo Bills were the best team of the Nineties that didn’t win a Super Bowl, losing four-straight from ’91-’94. Sadly, that was about as good as it got, because the Bills haven’t been back to the playoffs this millennium.
Their last postseason appearance came in 1999, and they haven’t posted a winning record since 2004. But, for the first time in a while, there’s optimism in Orchard Park; one reason is a defense that finished with 57 sacks and 23 interceptions in 2013.
The other is Sammy Watkins.
The fourth overall pick of the draft out of Clemson, Watkins is the rare receiving prospect that usually only comes around once every few years, on par with young guns like Julio Jones and A.J. Green. Head coach Doug Marrone, one of the architects of the Saints’ potent attack as the offensive coordinator from 2006-2008, so badly wanted Watkins that Buffalo traded up in the draft, giving up three picks – including their first and fourth-round picks in 2015 – to get him.
After battling a rib injury during the preseason, Watkins posted 3 grabs for 31 yards in the Bills eye-opening Week 1 victory over the Chicago Bears. Not quite the breakout debut most expected, but quarterback EJ Manuel also missed Watkins on a deep route, suggesting that this team will use his staggering speed to stretch the field – and shock the world – in 2014.
Rolling Stone managed to do what few defenders have: catch up with Watkins, to talk about transitioning from college to the pros, the (many) rap tributes to his skills and whether he owns Slippery When Wet.
The Bills were your favorite team growing up, so how does it feel knowing you were brought in to help turn the franchise around?
It really hit me the day I got drafted. Going through the process, you know you’re gonna go in the top 10, so you know what to look for. And then it comes and I’m being drafted to the Buffalo Bills. And I think we’re going to beast. I mean, we got Marquise [Goodwin] one of the fastest guys in the 40 [Goodwin is a former Olympian who ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL combine], you got me, Robert Woods. I think we’re going to be pretty fast.
You’re now on a team with C.J. Spiller, another amazing athlete out of Clemson. Are you guys rivals on the field?
Not at all. When you get to this level there’s really no competition. The only thing is competing against the defense and everybody is trying to do their best. We don’t compete at all. We actually joke around and laugh around. Other than that, we keep it professional on the field, and everybody tries to rip it up. [C.J.’s] an older guy, so we haven’t been going out. We’ve just been at camp, so nobody was really going out. If I’m not by myself I’m with the rookie guys or the wide receivers. Mike Williams. Marquise. Robert Woods.
Being the first wide receiver drafted, do you feel like you’re already one of the best athletes in the NFL?
Of course. I think I’ve been fighting battles just to get better as a professional. I think I aim to get better every day and I think so far everything’s going great, going against great cornerbacks and being successful. And I mean, you can definitely tell on the field that I’m one of the most high-quality athletes, I’m going to make that wild play, I’m going to make that one-handed catch. And everybody sees it. I’m just doing what I’ve been doing and that’s making plays.
What’s on your pre-game playlist?
It depends on what type of mood I’m in. Wale, Drake, Lil Wayne. Really anything can get me fired up. After the game, it’s the same thing; Wale and stuff like that. Just chill. Half the time I’ll listen to music and go to sleep. I listen to a little bit of everything; from country to soul music to R&B. Just depends how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes a little country music sounds good.
Have you seen any of the Sammy Watkins rap songs on YouTube?
[Laughs] Of course! I think all of them are great. All of them sound pretty good when I listen to them.
Are there any locker-room rap battles in Buffalo?
Uh, not at all, man. Most days, everybody’s really tired and really ready to go out there and practice and get the day over with. So we don’t have too many guys yellin’ or runnin’ around until we get on the field.
There were a lot of rumors that Bon Jovi was going to buy the Bills. Are you a fan of his music?
Nah, I’m not aware of his stuff.