JJ Watt, NFL Scouting Combine
Former University of Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt runs a drill during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Monday, Feb. 28, 2011.

Former University of Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt has worked for much of his life to get to this point.

But the draft moment so many young football players dream about — walking on the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and shaking the hand of the NFL commissioner — could be taken away from him.

Watt confirmed last week he had been contacted about attending the draft in person and said he was leaning toward going.

"We're not official yet," he said following UW's pro timing day. "There's a chance I'll be in New York. I think I might do that but we're going to finalize those plans and I'll let you know."

That was before news broke this week that the National Football League Players Association reportedly is recommending incoming rookies not attend the draft in person, apparently as a type of boycott due to the NFL lockout.

Watt is projected to be picked as high as sixth overall, to the Cleveland Browns, and appears to have a decent chance of landing in the top 10.

"It's crazy," Watt said. "If you would have told me that when I was a sophomore in high school (at Pewaukee), I probably would have dropped on the ground.

"At the same time, I know nothing matters until April 28 (first round of draft), so I need to continue working hard, continue showing I have high character and continue showing I'm a guy you want on your football team. Hopefully, teams see that and I get drafted to a great team."

Like the rest of this year's draft class, Watt can't do much but wait and see how the situation unfolds.

"It's a lot of waiting now, but waiting doesn't mean (I) stop working," he said. "I'm going to be working out every single day, twice a day, just putting in my time and working as hard as I can to be the best rookie possible."

Watt didn't take a traditional path to this point. He attended Central Michigan, where he was a tight end for one year, before giving up a scholarship to walk on with the Badgers, who moved him to defensive end.

"When I decided to transfer, my reason was because I wanted to play in the NFL and I knew Wisconsin gave me the best chance to do that," Watt said.

"I also knew there were no guarantees. Me parents helped me out; they supported me the whole way. They said, `Follow your dreams.' I dreamed big and I worked hard and it happened."

Watt smiled because his motto, which he refers to often on his frequent posts on Twitter, is "Dream Big, Work Hard."

"It's kind of a cheesy statement but at the end of the day it's a very, very true statement," he said. "I'll never stop saying it because, `Dream big, work hard,' is something that got me where I am today."

And if the draft boycott interrupts a piece of that dream? Watt, obviously, didn't address that issue last week. But he did give a hint of where he might stand on the issue when asked about being a potential top-10 pick and any disappointment if that doesn't happen.

"I feel like I've worked like a top-10 pick," he said. "But so did Aaron Rodgers (No. 24 overall in 2005), so did Brady Quinn (No. 22 in 2007) and all of those guys.

"Whatever team I go to, I'm going to work my tail off for them and I'm going to be the best player I can be for them. If you start having those type of expectations, you have the chance to be disappointed and I'm not going to be disappointed. I just want to play football."


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