HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – Carlos Watkins isn’t just lucky to be in the NFL.
He’s lucky to be alive.
Watkins, who was selected by the Houston Texans with the 142nd pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, was involved in a deadly wreck in 2013, when a car he was a passenger in hydroplaned and crashed into a pole.
There was so much force on impact, North Carolina Highway Patrol said, the pole snapped and left live power lines laying on top of the car.
At the time, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Watkins was “very fortunate” to have survived the accident.
One of his close friends, Dache Gossett, 21, didn’t.
Now, with his name called on draft weekend and his biggest dreams realized, Watkins said he couldn’t be more grateful.
“I sit back and think about it, I could have lost my life,” Watkins said. “I did lose one of my close relatives, and when I sit down and think about it, it’s truly a blessing to make it to this point.”
It was still a fight for Watkins.
Injuries from the accident forced him to redshirt as a sophomore. He returned the following year, playing 11 games as a reserve in 2014.
In his final two seasons at Clemson, Watkins started 30 games, including every game in the past two College Football Playoffs, and National Championships against Nick Saban and Alabama.
“I feel like I stepped up and played well,” Watkins said. “Especially this past year. I didn’t start off the way I wanted to, but I finished out the season strong. I really tried to solidify myself as a top pick in the draft, just to show what kind of player I was.”
On the field, Watkins is said to be athletic and disruptive, with experience in complex schemes that call for twisting and stunting. Though there are concerns about his weight and stamina, he’s viewed as a multi-dimensional talent that if developed properly, has the chance to excel as both a run stopper and pass rusher.
For the Texans, who are expecting to lose nose tackle Vince Wilfork to retirement, Watkins figures to be in the mix of players they hope can replace Wilfork’s production. That of course includes former fifth-round pick D.J. Reader, Watkins former teammate at Clemson.
“It’s really a blessing,” Watkins said. “D.J., being my big bro, guided me along this last year. Getting to play with him again, it’s really a blessing, man.”
Watkins said he’s also looking forward to reuniting with Deshaun Watson, who the Texans drafted No. 12 overall on Thursday.
“Deshaun has been a great player, and leader,” Watkins said.
All things considered, Watkins said, he couldn’t be more grateful.
“All the things I’ve been through, me and my family, and now we get to celebrate being with the Texans,” Watkins said. “It’s really been a great ride.”
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