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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Spotlights Armon Watts' Late-Blooming NFL Journey

Vikings defensive tackle Armon Watts, a sixth-round draft pick in 2019, has continued to make progress in each pro season.

There was a time, though, where Watts wondered if he'd even make it to the NFL.

Chad Graff of The Athletic spoke with Watts and delved into his journey from being a late-blooming senior at Arkansas to becoming a regular part of Minnesota's rotation on defensive line.

According to Graff, Watts – who didn't play football until high school – first started to doubt himself in the fall of 2018, when he "had zero starts and zero sacks in a collegiate career he had hoped would yield pro opportunities."

View the best photos of Vikings DT Armon Watts from the 2021 season.

Watts committed to Arkansas with the hope that impressive numbers against SEC talent would make him an early draft pick. But he was redshirted his first year and played in only [12] games in his first two seasons. He hoped for more as a junior but played in just [five] games. Then the head coach he committed to, Bret Bielema, was fired.

Through three seasons, he had seven tackles and zero sacks.

"I had to change my whole mentality and work ethic," Watts told Graff. "Not saying I didn't work hard before, but I had to put it in another gear. It was pretty much all or nothing. I just put my head down and worked."

As a fifth-year senior in 2018, Watts recorded seven sacks – an impressive number as an interior lineman – in 12 games. He participated in the East-West Shrine Game, impressing then-Vikings assistant d-line coach Robert Rodriguez.

And when Minnesota had a chance to draft Watts a few months later, the Vikings did.

Watts "did enough as a rookie in training camp to earn a spot on the 53-man roster and played well in his brief playing time at the end of the season." He had high expectations for himself going into his second season, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused a closure of his gym and impacted his ability to train.

Watts said it "took him a few games" to feel back in football shape, and by the end of the 2020 season, he still wasn't satisfied with progress he'd made.

"I knew I could hang, but I was definitely thinking, 'OK, I've still got something to prove,' " he told Graff. "It was like, to get where you want to get, you've got to put more out there. I'm not trying to be the average guy."

He again entered last season as a backup. But Michael Pierce got hurt early on, and Watts made his first start in Week 5. He had a sack in his second start and then another two weeks later. He had sacks in back-to-back games in late November, and his 5.0 total sacks were the third most on the team even though he started just nine games.

"Pretty much my whole career I've been an underdog having to fight through adversity just to prove it," Watts said. "But when I got the opportunity to start, it took off like a rocket."

Click here to read the rest of Graff's feature.

C.J. Ham hosts 3rd annual football camp in Duluth

A Minnesota native, Vikings fullback C.J. Ham is passionate about giving back – particularly in his hometown of Duluth.

Over the weekend, Ham hosted his third annual youth football camp at Denfeld High School.

View the best photos of Vikings FB C.J. Ham from the 2021 season.

Alexis Bass of CBS 3 Duluth covered the event, which welcomed 350 students between the ages of 6 and 14. Bass wrote:

Campers worked on the fundamentals of football and competed in drills and games all while prioritizing the fun that the sport of football provides. Every kid received a T-shirt, had a chance to meet C.J. and get an autograph.

The proceeds of the camp will go toward supporting diversity and inclusion scholarships for students graduating in the Duluth area.

"The one thing that is consistent is just the joy that all of these kids have and what they bring," Ham told Bass. "It's just a great reminder that there are so many things in life that we shouldn't be stressing about, and these guys get to come out here and play and have fun and play a sport."