Viking carries on family tradition as a star

Watson, a La Jolla junior who plays fullback and nosetackle for the Vikings, grew up with the team. The son of Vikings defensive line coach Ernie Watson and the younger brother of former La Jolla standout tailback E.J. Watson, Ja’Rodd Watson has spent most of his life either hanging around, assisting in various manners or playing for the Vikings.

It all started when he was about 5 years old and Head Coach Dave Ponsford allowed Watson to serve as the team’s water boy.

“I saw Ja’Rodd just after he was born,” Ponsford recalled. “When he got old enough, he was always at practice bouncing around. He was always a pretty good-sized kid, so when he was about 5 he became a water boy for our team. He stayed affiliated with the team either as a water boy or keeping stats, when he was a little bit older, all the way until he was in ninth grade and came out for the team.

Watson, now a 6-foot, 2-inch, 250-pound junior, said he always dreamed of playing for the Vikings, and getting the chance to play with his father and older brother on the coaching staff has made it that much sweeter.

“I like it because it makes me work harder,” Watson said. “They really drive me. Having my dad and brother around just makes me work that much harder. I’ve always wanted to play for La Jolla. I think I understand the game better from being around my dad and my brother all the time. I’ve been around football all my life.”

Watson has been a stalwart both on offense and defense for a team that has struggled due to youth and inexperience.

In La Jolla’s first eight games of the season, Watson led the Vikings with 626 yards rushing on 96 carries and scored six touchdowns. On defense, he totaled 23 solo tackles and 10 assists.

Watson’s biggest assets, especially as a fullback, are his size and toughness. You won’t often find him cutting around the end for a streak up the sideline, but when he goes through the middle, he usually makes defensive players remember him.

“It’s hard to bring him down,” Ponsford said. “You give him a little crease on a trap or just a straight dive and he gets a little head of steam going, it’s going to take more than one kid to take him down to the ground. It’s been nice for us this year because we really have an inexperienced (offensive) line. They’ve been working hard, but we’re not holding our blocks as long this year as we have in the past, so it’s nice to have him hit the hole hard and push the pile a little bit.”

Watson isn’t just a standout on the football field. He also plays basketball for the Vikings in the winter and volleyball in the spring. In a time when the three-sport athlete at the high school level is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, Watson is the exception to the rule.

He’ll likely concentrate on football at the next level, as he hopes to continue playing fullback in college. He hasn’t yet decided on a school or a program - he has talked with USC, Oregon and Florida, among others - but he has a ready-made guidance counselor in his older brother, who after leading La Jolla to an appearance in the CIF-San Diego Section title game went on to a career at Colorado State.

“I really want to play football in college,” Watson said. “I don’t care whether I play fullback or nosetackle or wherever. I just want to be on the field. I’d do just about anything.”

Ponsford said the family atmosphere the Watsons have brought to the team is something he has truly enjoyed. And watching the youngest member of the family grow from a toddler into one of his standout players has been truly a joy.

“It almost became an expectation, and sometimes when you see kids like that, they feel like they’re pressured into it and they don’t really respond, but Ja’Rodd isn’t like that,” Ponsford said. “It’s neat to see him hanging around football, because that’s what he chose to do.”