Jalen Watts-Jackson discusses his special teams play that won the game against Michigan, and his subsequent injury.
Here are excerpts from the Wednesday press conference with Michigan State's Jalen Watts-Jackson.
Q. What does this rivalry mean to you in the fact that you scored the winning touchdown?
Watts-Jackson: Well, being from here, this is one of the games -- well, this is definitely a game you hear about every year. My uncle actually, my uncle and my aunt both graduated from U of M, so them converting into State fans and like him, he works at Ford, so a bunch of U of M fans work with him, and all week he was talking to me about the game like this is a big game. I'm just glad you get to be a part of this game, a game that we've always watched growing up.
For the game to come down in my hands and me to actually win the game is just -- I can't even find the words to explain.
Q. The fact now that this occurred, I mean, you're going to have a place in history relative to this rivalry, right? Some of the biggest plays in MSU history. I mean, can you even wrap your arms around that yet?
Watts-Jackson: Really, I can't. But my teammates have been making jokes and stuff saying, Bro', you're about to get a statue made of you. You're going to get your name put up in the stadium. So really they're just making fun of the situation.
But still it's crazy that 10 seconds that take you from just being on a team or people acknowledging that you guys won the game to people tweeting you and text messaging you, Facebooking, saying you're a legend, you're a hero, alumni. Like I saw on ESPN Le'Veon's reaction, and I just was laughing. It was crazy.
Q. But you don't mind?
Watts-Jackson: Oh, no, I don't mind at all. I don't mind at all.
Q. Before the snap when you're lining up and you look and you see 10 seconds to go to even get his foot on the ball the game's probably over. What chance did you think and did you play that scenario in your mind and how it would all work?
Watts-Jackson: When I was speaking with the ESPN guys and I saw ESPN on Twitter and they said before the guy bobbled the ball there is probably a 0.2 percent chance of Michigan State winning the game. I would say that was pretty accurate, especially coming from my position to where I'm just trying to hold a guy off from hitting another guy.
But I guess the Rangers, that's what we call the blocking unit for punt, Coach Snyder told us they changed their blocking schemes. All you have to do is believe you're that guy and we're going to go block one.
I guess, well Grayson and Matt, I guess they deserve all the credit. They fired off the ball like it was go time, and I was in the right place at the right time and we made it happen. So just as much as I guess I'm a hero or legend for scoring, I really had to give a lot of thanks to them guys and Jermaine also for picking off a block. It was crazy though.
Q. Does it seem weird to you that a lot of Michigan State alumni and fans named their kids Jalen this weekend?
Watts-Jackson: I didn't even know that. I guess it does seem a little crazy, but like I said, it's crazy with the 10 seconds for not only this program but for history.
Q. How often have you guys practiced that particular play with the Rangers?
Watts-Jackson: We take special teams very serious here. This is as big a part of the game as offense and defense. So we have meetings every day, we have walk-through before practice, and our coaches do a very good job of making sure things are crisp. So it wasn't like it was so much a cakewalk. Like we practice every day of the week, going through stuff, going through situations. So it wasn't as much luck as everyone says it was, because everyone did their job.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about after the play was over, dog pile going on, aside from your injury, did it kind of hit you immediately that you just kind of scored a touchdown on one of the biggest plays in possibly college football history?
Watts-Jackson: Not at all. Even when I got to the hospital and things were really settling down and people were telling me good play, still I was thinking, man, my hip is hurting.
I would say it first really hit me — besides when I got my phone, because I didn't have my phone all weekend — so besides when I got my phone, it first hit me after I got surgery, my family came and I was just in my room, the hospital room by myself, looking at ESPN. And they just kept playing it back and kept playing it back. I'm like, wow, like that really happened.
So it didn't really hit me at all until I was by myself in the hospital room just watching TV.
Q. How is the hip, and what is the recovery process going to be like for you? How long are you going to be in the chair?
Watts-Jackson: Well, actually I'm using a walker. I prefer to use a walker because I like to stand and still be a little active. Honestly, they told me that really I'm not supposed to have any pressure on my hip for three months, but honestly it hasn't been feeling too bad or like anything that I can't handle or anything of that such.
But hopefully I heal faster than what they think. The trainers have been doing a good job of keeping in touch with me, calling me, asking how I'm feeling and making sure I'm taking my medicine and stuff like that.
They said probably around six, seven months before I'm running and stuff like that. I won't do anything in spring ball, but honestly I'm hoping that something could give before then and my process could be a little faster than what they said it would be.
MSU hero Jalen Watts-Jackson describes his thoughts in the hospital after he scored the winning touchdown but broke his hip.
Q. For those of us that have known you from back in high school, you're very quiet. You don't seek a lot of attention. So when you're laying in bed and you say ESPN just kept playing it over and over and your phone's blowing up, that's not really something that you seek or want. So how did you adjust -- as long as you're laying there injured and being a person that doesn't seek the limelight, how did you handle that?
Watts-Jackson: Sometimes, like I told you, my phone was freezing, I would just set my phone to the side and I would change the channel. I was actually holding like long conversations with my nurse when she would come in. She was actually a pretty cool lady. She was a fan, a U of M fan. I guess she really put it aside because she kept good conversation. I remember one time we were talking 15 minutes just about random stuff.
So I was just trying to keep my mind off of everything that was going on because, like I said, it was like a great experience, but at the same time I'm thinking, man, I'm down for the season. My hip is messed up. It's easy to just sit here and tell everybody thank you, but my thought process at the same time was like, man, I wish I could be with my team right now. I just want to get back to East Lansing. It was a lot. But like I said, if I had to do it all over again, I definitely would.
Q. You live with Vayante (Copeland), is that correct?
Watts-Jackson: Yeah, we did live together.
Q. How much are you two able to lean on each other now that you're both going through injuries?
Watts-Jackson: I was just with him and Madre (London) yesterday. The first joke was, man, there's got to be something in the water. Because first Vayante and then Madre, but Madre will be back, and now me. It's like, man, we're all hurt. I don't know how this happens.
We were all just talking during camp like this is going to be a big season for us, and then Vayante and Madre came out with a really big first game. Things were looking like honestly like freshman All-American status for him. Hopefully it can still go for Madre, but we all decided like we tried to make light of the situation, don't try to dwell on it too much because we're still young. We've still got a lot of football ahead of us. So we try to just make light of the situation, chill like we did just like before this all happened.
I don't even think we talked about it that much when we were all together. We were just engaged in normal conversation. They were asking if I was all right. I was trying not to ask them to get me too much stuff because I had my leg up on the couch. But it was definitely good seeing my teammates again.
Going to a U of M hospital, there were a lot of U of M fans, but I want to thank everybody at the University of Michigan Hospital for making me feel at home. I honestly couldn't even tell that I was at a U of M Hospital. Everyone was so nice. Everyone was congratulating me and just making sure I was OK. That takes a lot, because I know how big of a rivalry it is, especially after seeing the way people react in the stands.
I want to thank the doctors that helped me out, the nurse that I had these long conversations with, Kristina, I remember her name still. I just want to honestly thank them because they made a situation that was not just crazy but a painful situation go by fast and make it a lot easier than it could have been.