The ill-fated decision to trade up for wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the 2014 NFL draft haunted the Buffalo Bills in the years that followed.
Haunted is also a good word to describe what Watkins was going through at the time, as he recounts in a wild interview with Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne that published Tuesday. The paranormal was just part of Watkins' discussion with Dunne, a former Buffalo News sports reporter. The receiver, fresh off a Super Bowl championship with the Kansas City Chiefs, also talks in depth about his time with the Bills, which came to an end when he was traded to the Los Angles Rams during training camp before the 2017 season.
Watkins admitted to Dunne that as a 21-year-old he spent every night on Chippewa Street, drinking and smoking marijuana.
"I would go out and get wasted," he said, "Wasted wasted."
At the time, Watkins said he was consumed by trying to help his family and friends who he grew up in a particularly rough part of Fort Myers, Fla.
"I don't think the world knows what athletes go through off the field," Watkins said. "We have family. We have lives. You have good and bad in your family. I'm like (expletive) Jesus in my family. I was putting family before football. I wasn't focused on football. I was like: '(expletive) football. I have to figure out how I'm going to put my family in a position to be successful or not to get killed or not to get in a situation where they can go to jail.'
"I was fighting a war outside of football."
Watkins' time with the Bills was marred by injuries, but it's clear from his interview that there was a good deal of self-sabotage involved.
From Dunne: "Instead of getting scheduled treatment, he stayed away from the Bills facility. Nobody heard a peep from Watkins as he, admittedly idiotically, ripped the boot off his foot to jog around town. He returned to action too soon, in two-and-a-half months, and only damaged his foot further. Of course, he was doing all this damage to himself, but he couldn't see that. Not at the time. His life was at a crossroads."
The constant injuries left Watkins with only one way, out in his mind – retirement.
"Literally, just questioning everything in my life: 'Am I supposed to be doing this? Is this my purpose? Is this a sign for me to quit football?' " he said. "This is what God's telling me. I felt like he was telling me to stop. Just stop."
Instead, Watkins got a fresh start when his prayers for a trade were answered. He said he felt "nothing but bad energy" from new Bills coach Sean McDermott prior to the deal.
Again from Dunne: "Like McDermott was testing him, triggering him, waging a 'mental war' to make him explode. Watkins never demanded a trade, but he wanted out. Needed out. Literally stared into a mirror in his St. John Fisher College dorm room at Bills training camp and prayed, nightly, 'Get me out of here. Please, God.' "
Watkins played a key role in helping the Chiefs beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl in February, finishing with five catches for 98 yards. His 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter on the Chiefs' go-ahead scoring drive came after Watkins beat All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman at the line of scrimmage.
Watkins agreed to a restructured contract this offseason to remain with the Chiefs. He'll earn a $9 million base salary, with a chance to earn as much as $16 million with incentives.