He has also been a member of the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, and New York Giants.
Watkins was a multi-sport star at Helix High School in San Diego, California. He lettered in football, volleyball, soccer, and track; he was the first athlete in 25 years to accomplish that feat at Helix High. As a football player, he earned all-county honors during his junior and senior seasons. His teammates included current NFL starters Reggie Bush and Alex Smith; the team won the 2000 San Diego Section Division II CIF Football championship.
Watkins enrolled at Norfolk State but redshirted during the 2001 season. He transferred to Grossmont (California) Junior College and played in ten games during the 2002 season. As a wide receiver, he finished the season with 11 receptions for 299 yards and 4 touchdowns. However, his greatest contributions to the team came as a placekicker: he made 10 of 11 field goals and 46 of 49 PAT kicks.
In his second season at Grossmont, Watkins elevated his performance as a receiver. He caught 40 passes for 915 yards and 8 touchdowns, leading the Griffins to a 13-1 record and the Foothill Valley Conference championship. At placekicker, he made 12 of 15 field goals and 50 of 51 PAT kicks. He totaled 134 points (combined receiving and kicking)- the highest total in the conference. He was named Region III Offensive Player of the Year for 2003 and received First Team All-American recognition from JC Gridwire and Junior College Athletic Bureau.
Watkins transferred to Brigham Young University in 2004 and immediately earned a starting position at wide receiver. BYU opened up the 2004 season against Notre Dame, and Watkins made an instant impact. His first reception as a Cougar was a spectacular 50-yard catch against double coverage; the play set up a touchdown on BYU’s first possession of the game. Late in the fourth quarter of that game, Watkins made a spectacular 37-yard reception (despite pass interference by the defense); the catch secured a crucial first down for BYU and sealed the Cougars’ 20-17 victory over the Irish.
Watkins gained national media attention with a career best performance against Boise State in the fourth game of the season. The Broncos held Watkins in check during the first half, but he was unstoppable in the second half. He finished with 9 receptions for 211 yards. He caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from John Beck in the third quarter, and added a 52-yard grab in the fourth quarter. BYU lost the game, but Watkins had established himself as a dangerous weapon for the Cougars.
For the season, Watkins totaled 52 receptions for 1,042 yards and 6 touchdowns. He averaged 94.7 receiving yards per game, a Mountain West Conference (MWC) record. He averaged 20.0 yards per reception- impressive enough that Sports Illustrated named him the best deep threat in the nation. For his efforts, Watkins was named First Team All-MWC and Honorable Mention All-American.
Expectations were high for Watkins as he entered his senior season at BYU. However, with a new head coach (Bronco Mendenhall) and a new offensive coordinator (Robert Anae), BYU’s offense relied heavily on shorter passing routes and John Beck threw fewer deep passes to Watkins. Also, with the departure of star freshman receiver Austin Collie, opposing defenses focused their pass coverage schemes directly at Watkins. He was often double-teamed (and sometimes tripled-team); consequently, his statistics declined in the 2005 season. He still finished with respectable numbers: 49 receptions for 678 yards and a team-high 9 touchdowns. His best game of the season was against TCU: he caught 7 passes for 176 yards and 3 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also dropped three sure touchdowns and fumbled once; BYU lost the game 51-50 in overtime. Watkins ended his college career with a strong showing against California in the Las Vegas Bowl: 5 catches for 93 yards and late fourth-quarter touchdown in BYU’s 35-28 loss.