Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins (2) tosses oranges to the crowd after the 2014 Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Clemson defeated Ohio State 40-35. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
In the time between the end of combine season and the start of the NFL Draft, football becomes a league of show-and-tell as prospects line up team visits.
As Christopher Walken tells Dennis Hopper in the film ‘True Romance’ when attempting to get Hopper’s character, feigning ignorance, to tell the truth during an interrogation, “what we got here is a little game of show-and-tell … you don’t wanna show me nothing, but you’re tellin’ me everything.”
With the courtship between Sammy Watkins and the Detroit Lions, that continues to be the same case. Tuesday, Detroit brought Watkins into town to tour the facilities in Allen Park. The Clemson wide receiver got to meet his hero Calvin Johnson, had dinner with Martin Mayhew and Jim Caldwell, and even happened to bump into Bill Ford Jr., the Lions’ vice chairman.
Coincidentally or not, Ford Jr. managed to be in Allen Park at the same time as Watkins, and coincidentally, as a result, he got to meet with the prospect, sell him on the team and likely gauge his character. As Walken’s monologue goes, Detroit might not want to show anything at this particular time, but with this move, they could be telling the league everything.
Most people who know how Lions’ business works know how prospective players have to pass the litmus test of the Ford family. It can be traced back as recently as Golden Tate, who bonded with Ford Jr. over their love of golf. As a player, if you command the attention and respect of the Ford’s, you’re golden. The fact that Ford Jr. made it a point to be around for Watkins’ visit shows the team is likely serious about making a move for the wide receiver.
Ford Jr., it can be argued, was likely sent to Allen Park to look at Watkins closest, perhaps allowing him a chance to give his final blessing to Mayhew for a move to nab the prospect out of Clemson. Many will debate about whether the team should trade up to secure a chance at Watkins’ services, but what can’t be debated? If Ford Jr. is sold on Watkins and likes him enough himself, Mayhew has likely already been given his marching orders.
After his father’s recent passing, expect Ford Jr.’s role, opinion and influence to carry plenty of extra weight in Allen Park. Watkins, it seems, would like to play for the Lions as much as many in Detroit would like him on the team. Not only has he expressed his desires on Twitter, the Lions have quietly been doing diligence on him behind the scenes, talking to his teammate Martavis Bryant during a visit that could probably be seen as much about Watkins as about Bryant himself.
Ford Jr’s inclusion in Watkins’ Detroit day could be a minor detail to some, but is important subplot to note, especially if the Ford’s don’t make a regular habit of visiting other potential first round prospects during their visits from now until May.
If the Lions make a move up to nab Watkins next month at this time, we’ll know the move was approved during Ford Jr.’s visit in early April.