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Badgers in the NFL: Derek Watt brings versatile skill set to Chargers

Another Watt hopes to bring a ‘charge’ to San Diego

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

During his days with the Wisconsin Badgers, Derek Watt brought it all.

For four years, he was the lead blocking back for the likes of Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement from 2012-15. He could also catch the ball out of the backfield, reeling in 30 receptions during his time in Madison.

There also picked up certain offensive personnel that showcased him as a variation of a tight end.

"Derek was a guy that had it all in one package," running backs coach John Settle said last month during fall camp.

Now, as the No. 1 fullback for the San Diego Chargers, Watt brings his skill set to the NFL and could play a huge role in the AFC West team’s offense.

For all rookies, there’s an adjustment period, but Watt noted that his role in San Diego’s offense is very similar to what he played at UW.

“It’s a new offense, it’s different terminology, and it’s complex,” Watt told B5Q in late August. “You definitely have to do your work in the classroom, and it’s your job to know what to do. Coaches say all the time the fastest way out of here and fastest off the field is not knowing what to do. That was kind of a big thing when I came in here. I was going to do everything I could to learn the playbook quickly, and I feel like I was able to do and show that to the coaches and do what they asked me to do.”

Selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Watt was reunited with his former partner in the backfield in Gordon. In 2014, the Heisman Trophy finalist rushed for 2,587 yards — second-most in FBS history.

The Chargers hope the two can rekindle that fire, as Gordon led the team in rushing (641 yards) but had what many consider a disappointing rookie campaign.

“Melvin -- while I was at Wisconsin — we were extremely close, good buddies on and off the field so we just got that type of chemsitry,” Watt said. “With training camp, we kind of picked up right where we left off and getting comfortable with each other again in seeing the same things and reading the same things in regards to what we’re seeing on the defensive side of the ball.”

Despite being two time zones away, Watt’s still kept in touch with his former teammates — especially those in his position group that will see the field often in 2016.

"Whether it’s where my first step is, or who I should be reading on certain plays, he’s definitely an ear to listen to whenever I’m struggling or if I’m doing well," true sophomore fullback Alec Ingold said during fall camp. "He likes to give me feedback, and it’s cool to keep in contact with him."

Watt mentioned he spoke with the fullbacks, including Leon Jacobs — who had converted to fullback from inside linebacker in the fall. Knowing the intricacies of the role, the Pewaukee native wanted to pass down the knowledge to an intriguing group that also features redshirt junior Austin Ramesh.

"It’s a position where you really gotta commit to it and be physical and be versatile and try to do a different things with those guys" Watt said. "They’re all very talented. They bring some different things to the table."

While giving attention back to his former teammates, Watt earned his roster spot with the Chargers during training camp, beating out undrafted rookie Chris Swain. He will now play in his first NFL game again on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs (1 p.m. ET, Arrowhead Stadium, CBS).

When speaking with him back in August, Watt still remembers that phone call from Chargers personnel, a feeling he described as “extreme happiness” for his friends and family. He seems set to make an impact on a team looking to compete in a daunting division.

“With the location, you can’t really beat San Diego,” Watt said. “People talk all the time about the weather, it’s tough to beat out here. It couldn’t have been a better location, better spot for me. The guys are great here, the coaching staff’s awesome and everything’s been great so far.”