Clemson's Watkins, South Carolina's Ellington join forces in Tampa to prepare for NFL Combine
CLEMSON - Bruce Ellington just couldn't let Sammy Watkins slide without busting his chops.
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To the victors - literally, Victor Hampton among them - go the spoils, after all.
"You know, when we first came down here, we were talking about it," Ellington said. "Some guys are here from Florida, some guys are from the state, we'll talk a little trash. But that's in the past; we're working on our future right now."
Watkins and Ellington, former adversaries at Clemson and South Carolina, are now united as two wide receivers striving for the best draft selection they can.
Those two, plus ex-Gamecocks cornerback Hampton and defensive end Kelcy Quarles, trained together the past month in Tampa.
Along with former USC receiver Alshon Jeffery, they all share the same Charlotte-based agent, Tory Dandy from Relativity Sports, who graduated from Woodruff High School south of Spartanburg.
Going head-to-head in college, the score was Ellington 3, Watkins 0 on a couple of fronts: touchdown catches and team victories.
But as Ellington said, that's in the past. Watkins is regarded as a top-5 pick, setting a good example for Ellington as he hopes to find his way into the first three rounds.
"Sammy, he's the best receiver that's coming out," said Ellington, who played at Berkeley High. "So working out with him and learning from him is pushing me to become better."
Ellington admires the way Watkins runs routes, and teaches routes.
"We run 40s and routes, and every time I come back, he'll tell me if I'm going through it wrong," Ellington said. "I tell him what he's doing wrong. So being able to teach someone on their routes, I think that's the biggest thing.
"And I think he's got a leadership role - not being outspoken, but as far as being humble, he'll tell me what I can do to get better."
Of course, when they're on the field under the Florida sun, there's a familiar face in coverage on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
"It's been great, man. He's a great competitor," Hampton said of Watkins. "We're just out here all trying to make each other better, because we're trying to reach the same goals. He's a great guy; he's actually become one of my best friends."
The NFL draft is still 11 weeks away, but the biggest job interview of these players' lives begins Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs will work together in on-field drills Sunday, televised by NFL Network. Ironically, Watkins is in the same group with Ellington's college quarterback, Connor Shaw, while Ellington is paired with Watkins' Clemson quarterback, Tajh Boyd.
"I think going there (to Indianapolis,) I can show a lot of things, running the 40, doing my shuttle and catching and running routes," Ellington said. "I'm ready for everything. I'm ready to show teams what I can do."
Offensive linemen, tight ends and special-teamers engage in timing drills and stations Saturday; defensive linemen and linebackers go Monday; and defensive backs finish it off Tuesday.
"Hopefully they'll see that I have good feet during pass protection, I place my hands well, I have a strong punch," Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas said. "Other stuff, hopefully I have a good day running. I definitely think some teams look at, 'well, he played at Clemson with the fast no-huddle, he must be in shape.' "
Players will meet with reporters Thursday through Sunday, and teams can conduct interviews between Thursday and Monday.
Ellington, Hampton, Quarles and Watkins, along with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Clemson receiver Martavis Bryant and cornerback Bashaud Breeland, were among the record group of 85 underclassmen invited to the Combine. Boyd, Shaw and Thomas were seniors.
"It's something that you go through one time in this position, something I've been watching the last few years, dreaming of being accepted there," Hampton said. "So I'm excited to go and showcase my talent. Hopefully move into the first round in front of some of the corners they have (ranked) in front of me."