How Packers rookie Christian Watson found 'poetic justice' with one backflip, launching his career

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette

GREEN BAY – Christian Watson turned his back to Lambeau Field’s stands, where Green Bay Packers fans beckoned him to leap, and planted two feet in the end zone. There was a pause between touchdown and backflip, between beleaguered rookie and burgeoning star, the launching pad for a career ready to orbit.

Basking in the adulation, any number of thoughts could have rushed Watson’s mind. The frustration. The cathartic release. It took nine weeks for Watson to exorcise the first play of his NFL career, the dropped touchdown pass at Minnesota in Week 1, a play that haunted him so much he refused to acknowledge its existence, sweeping it away like a bad dream. In between, Watson was a fixture on the injury report, plagued with two hamstring strains and a concussion in six weeks. He missed almost his entire first training camp after offseason knee surgery.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson does a backflip in the end zone after scoring on a long reception in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 13 at Lambeau Field.

If staying on the field was tough, making plays on it was more elusive. Watson had 88 receiving yards in his first six games. He had about as many drops as catches. For a receiver general manager Brian Gutekunst traded two second-round picks to draft, only after trying and failing to reenter the first round, the pressure was crushing.

Watson was one of the most explosive athletes to ever enter the NFL, handpicked to replace Davante Adams. He didn’t have a touchdown catch in his first two months.

“It was,” his father Tazim Wajed says, “a 1,000-pound gorilla on his back.”

There were no signs Watson was about to shed that weight when the Packers hosted the Dallas Cowboys last month. Watson dropped the first pass Aaron Rodgers threw to him that afternoon. Then he dropped the second. Back home in Georgia, Wajed felt his son slipping further. “Concentration drops,” the former Packers sixth-round pick thought.

Then it happened. A strike of lightning so sudden, so unexpected, it changed the trajectory of a career. On third-and-1 with five minutes left in the second quarter, Watson beat Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown’s press coverage. Rodgers lofted a pass down the right sideline, and when Watson cradled it with two hands against his chest, Brown slipped.

Now Watson had the end zone to himself. As the rest of the Packers' offense followed, racing to celebrate the most consequential play of Watson’s life, the rookie’s mind was not cluttered, but clear.

“I actually turned around,” Watson says, “just to make sure no one was behind me so I could do the backflip. I didn’t want to do the backflip and have someone coming in. That would’ve been bad.”

Watching on his big-screen TV, Wajed exhaled. His son’s spiral had stopped.

Christian Watson found a safe place to land.

More:Packers rookie Christian Watson gets '800-pound gorilla off his back' in historic breakout

More:Christian Watson's impact went well beyond his touchdowns in Packers' victory over Bears

The ‘daredevil kid’

The backflip might have startled 78,433 fans inside Lambeau Field. For those who know Watson, his family, his coaches, it was an unmistakable signal.

They knew everything was about to change.

Watson started entertaining himself with backflips when he was 8 years old. After youth football practice, he often was whisked to his older sister’s cheerleading. A self-described “crazy kid,” Watson could become easily bored. He was happiest at the playground, where he would climb and jump off every piece of equipment, no matter how tall.

There was no extra space to roam inside his sister’s cramped cheerleading room. One day, the boredom irresistible, Watson went for it. He lifted off the cushioned floor, spun backward in the air, and stuck the landing. He’s flipped backward ever since.

“I was always a daredevil kid,” Watson says, “who wanted to try some crazy stuff. Obviously, I would learn from stuff that didn’t go too well. And then sometimes I would just do something that was crazy.”

The antics fit a family blessed with athletic genes. Watson’s grandfather, James, played semiprofessional football until he was 40. The last 40-yard dash he timed, at age 38, clocked 4.56 seconds. Wajed, formerly known as Tim Watson, never played a snap for the Packers after being drafted 156th overall in 1993, but he spent five NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. Tré Watson, Christian’s older brother, was a first-team all-Big Ten linebacker at Maryland. He tied a program record with five interceptions as a senior and, for a short time, signed with the Washington Commanders.

Christian Watson with his father, Tazim Wajed, and older brother Tre Watson.

Only three years separated the Watson brothers, sparking an intense sibling rivalry. “There wasn’t a thing,” Tré Watson says, “that we didn’t compete in.” It stretched beyond sports. Video game battles ended with controllers chucked across the room. ACT exams brought bragging rights. Even the dinner table was a contest. The family of five commonly ordered three, four pizzas, or made 50 wings disappear in 15 minutes. The Watson boys raced to see who could not only eat more, but finish first.

Big brother beat little brother in almost everything. Almost.

“It’s kind of a running joke,” Tré Watson says, “but he came out of the womb faster than I was. He could’ve given me a tenth or two off his 40, and he still would’ve been drafted where he was, and I would’ve been a lot better off than I am right now. That’s just how ridiculously gifted he is.”

Christian Watson was a supernatural athlete before he even realized it. Dad remembers taking the family to Texas Roadhouse when Christian, who he nicknamed “Scoot,” was about 3. When he took his sons to the restroom, Scoot slid to the edge of the booth. From his knees, he catapulted over the peanut shells on the floor. Most kids would’ve smashed themselves into a bloody nose. Scoot landed on two feet.

The rest of the family looked at each other, stunned.

It took time for Watson’s speed and pedigree to translate to football. If the Watson family is blessed with athleticism, it’s cursed with being late bloomers. Wajed was 5-foot-6, 126 pounds as a high school freshman before growing into a 6-2, 214-pound safety. His son grew even later. Christian Watson was just 5-8, 140 pounds after his junior season at Plant High in Tampa, a football factory that sent 254 players to college programs over 16 years.

The lack of size kept Watson from reaching varsity his first two seasons. He had zero scholarship offers after his junior year, even from Division II programs. Stuck as the fourth receiver in coach Robert Weiner’s offense, an empty mailbox wasn’t surprising.

“A guy like Christian, who ends up being like he is,” Weiner says, “you say, ‘Man, if he went to that high school, he probably got hundreds of offers and choices.’ No, he didn’t. But that’s because as a junior, this kid, if you’d look at him and say, ‘He’s going to be playing for the Green Bay Packers catching passes from Aaron Rodgers one day,’ you would look at him and say, ‘You’re crazy. No way.’”

The top three receivers on Plant’s depth chart went on to play Division I. Watson worried his football career might end after high school. Then, predictably, he reached his growth spurt. Watson sprouted 4 inches between his junior and senior seasons. His 40 dropped from 4.79 to 4.4.

Tré Watson saw something awaken inside his little brother. The kid started doing backflips during games, playing with swagger, unafraid.

“You just saw it click for him again,” Tré Watson says. “You saw that explosiveness that you saw his whole life growing up, when he was little. You saw it translate to playing with emotion on the field again, because he’s back out there making plays, and he knows he’s capable of doing it now.”

Christian Watson hauls in a pass during youth football practice.

Weiner looked at the father who became a safety, looked at the brother who became a linebacker, and knew it was inevitable. Genetics are undefeated. For Christian Watson, his growth spurt came at the worst time. Weiner understands it now that he has graduated to college coaching. A co-offensive coordinator at Toledo, his job is to recruit as quickly as possible, ensuring no class of incoming freshmen is left bare. If high school players don’t shine by their sophomore year, Weiner says, it’s too late.

As recruiters from Florida’s powerhouse programs flocked to his high school, Weiner warned not to let Watson leave the state. If they did, he’d say, they would scratch their heads in a few years wondering how they let a receiver playing on Sundays get away.

Nobody would listen.

“This kid was so long,” Weiner says, “and it seemed like when we threw him the ball, his body would be ever expanding. I always likened him to when you’re a little kid, and you’re kind of messing around at a restaurant, you pull the paper down on the straw, and you put a drop of water on it and it expands. That’s what Christian is.

“You threw the ball to him, and he just kept expanding. You’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s an overthrow.’ And then, no, not to Christian it’s not.”

The 'nail-biter'

With most recruiting classes full, and desperation thick, Weiner hosted an old coaching friend in his office during the spring before Watson’s senior season.

Atif Austin, a Tampa native, coached receivers at North Dakota State. He didn’t travel 2,000 miles to recruit the best players Plant had to offer. He knew they were out of reach, heading for the Big Ten and SEC. What Austin needed to find, what North Dakota State built a dynasty unearthing, was hidden talent.

Weiner knew he had one. After small talk, he invited Austin to practice that night.

“I just needed an opportunity,” Watson says. “Not a specific opportunity.”

Austin stood on the sideline during practice, mesmerized by what he saw. He watched Watson go through individual drills, blazing through the footwork ladder, and knew his athleticism was special. “I was like, ‘Whew. This kid has some pretty good movement,’” Austin says. “He’s not bad.” He was also pushing 6 feet, tall enough to be recruitable. Once Austin saw Watson in team drills, the way he hustled after blocks, the lack of ego, he was sold.

The Florida skies opened shortly after practice began. Recruiters scurried from the field, escaping the downpour in their cars. Austin stayed, finding shelter in an awning on top of the bleachers. He pulled out his phone to take video, capturing proof there was a kid 2,000 miles away his program needed to lure to Fargo.

“He’s not the dude, dude out there,” Austin says, “but he is hustling, trying to get blocks. He’s just doing everything on the football field that I thought represented what we were trying to do at North Dakota State.”

Austin brought his videos back to campus, unable to offer a scholarship on site, and waited until his fellow coaches returned from the road. Everyone gave their pitches in a recruiting meeting, where politics can sway opinions. Recruiting is territorial by nature. Coaches are known to promote their areas. Austin waited to present Watson, guarding against any detectable bias.

After their discussion, the coaches prioritized a list of 10 high school receivers. Watson, Austin says, was at the top. There was only one condition. North Dakota State, with its isolated campus, needed to make sure Watson was a good fit. It wanted to test Watson’s interest, see if he was really willing to leave home behind to pursue college football.

Austin called Watson’s mother, Christa, to deliver the good news. Her son had a scholarship offer. He just needed to reach Fargo to get it.

“Listen, I love this kid,” Austin assured the Watson family. “He doesn’t even need to do camp. Just get up here.”

Watson was born two years after his father’s NFL career ended. Wajed never pushed football on his sons, allowing them to set their path, with one rule. If they started something, they would finish. The Watson boys tried baseball, but that didn’t stick. “They hated baseball,” Wajed says. Basketball was tenable, but both left it behind early in life, gravitating toward football.

Christian Watson started training with his father not long after he could walk. Catch. Laps. Gym. That was his childhood. His passion became an obsession. When Watson was in kindergarten, Wajed visited school for lunch. At recess, he watched his son run laps with the teacher. Watson did more than keep up. He sprinted the final stretch, finishing first.

Nothing was keeping him from Fargo.

Dad booked a flight in Atlanta, near his home. It was delayed a couple of hours, missing their connection in Minneapolis. Unable to get another flight until the next day, Wajed rented a car. “It was crazy,” he says, “but it was also meant to be.” They drove the last 250 miles, a three-and-a-half-hour trip that pushed arrival much later than expected.

Late enough for Austin to get nervous.

North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman held off opening camp for Watson, but as the hours passed, he started questioning when the Florida recruit would arrive. Austin sensed his boss’s impatience. “If he’s not here,” Austin remembers Klieman telling him, “we’re moving on.” Austin feared the scholarship could be in jeopardy. Checking his phone, he urged his head coach to wait a little longer.

“It was a nail-biter,” he says.

Wajed finally pulled into campus late that night. As his son met Klieman, he waited anxiously in Austin’s office. They started discussing the future, the possibilities, envisioning what Watson could become.

“He wasn’t a polished diamond yet,” Austin says, “but I could see it. I thought Christian’s best football was ahead of him. I said, ‘People don’t know about Christian yet, but they will.’”

Klieman, who now coaches Kansas State, could see it too. Watson walked out of their meeting with his first scholarship offer.

He was about to become the most explosive receiver on an FCS field in years.

'The Freak'

Christian Watson, left, as a sophomore in high school.

At his locker inside Lambeau Field, Watson sits and stretches his legs after practice on a Thursday afternoon. They are the source of his speed, chiseled thighs that look like they belong to a sprinter. His socks are rolled up past his ankles, sandals covering his feet, as he discusses his growth spurt.

His body didn’t stop stretching in college. As a freshman, Watson grew three more inches. Take a picture from his sophomore year in high school, compare it to his sophomore year in Fargo, and Watson looks like two different people.

“It almost looks,” Wajed says, searching for a comparison, “like a child and a man. He goes from standing at my chest, to I’m looking up to him.”

Christian Watson, right, as a sophomore in college.

Watson had knee surgery for his growth plates as a freshman at North Dakota State, alleviating stress on his joints. It was an easy decision. In a program loaded at his position, including former Packers receiver Darrius Shepherd, Watson wasn’t playing immediately anyway.

He needed to polish his route running first, get smoother out of his breaks. Austin lined up arches on the field, teaching Watson to stay low to the ground. “Keep your chest over your knees,” he’d say, “chin over your toes.” Watson was taught to drive through routes, maintaining his speed.

The polish came with time, but Watson was still buried on the depth chart as a redshirt freshman. He caught just nine passes for 165 yards in 2018. It was another slow start, like high school. Austin left for Northern Illinois after the season. Watson, still growing, had another surgery. It wasn’t until fall camp his sophomore year when new receivers coach Noah Pauley saw what Watson had become. He was 6-4 now, towering over practice.

By then, it was clear Watson wasn’t leaving the field.

“This kid,” Pauley says, “was faster than everyone by far.”

The long legs didn’t prevent Watson from doing backflips. He made it part of his pregame routine, a bit of fun to keep himself loose. Eventually, Watson started walking around to fellow receivers before kickoff. “Join me,” he’d tell them. It became tradition before games for three, four Bison receivers to line up in the end zone like they were Rockettes and flip backward.

Watson was the ringleader. Most days in practice, he’d make a play that would drop jaws. A sideline catch with impossible body control. A breakaway against defenders who had an angle to cut his momentum, but couldn’t. “We called him The Freak,” Pauley says. There was just one problem. With all this athleticism bottled inside, Watson couldn’t wait to unleash it in games. He’d get a step on the defensive back, track the football midair, and start thinking touchdown before it arrived.

In his first game last fall, Watson ran past two Albany defenders down the middle of the field. His quarterback’s pass was underthrown, and as Watson turned for the football, a defender nudged him. Watson kept his feet, but when the football met his hands, he couldn’t catch it. “He just dropped the ball,” Pauley says. Watson smacked his hands in frustration and trotted back to the huddle, completely disinterested in the 15-yard penalty.

Delaware linebacker Matt Palmer moves in as North Dakota State's Christian Watson pulls in a pass. Watson had a flare for making the spectacular grab, but easy catches eluded him.

Watson had a flare for making the spectacular grab. In a game against Northern Iowa, he ran a crossing route 30 yards downfield. Watson was open — he got open a lot against FCS cornerbacks — but his quarterback’s pass was behind him. Watson leaped in the air, swiveled his hips toward the football and maintained his speed. “It was a catch,” North Dakota State offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl says, “where you just go, ‘Holy (expletive).’” Watson gained another 10 yards without breaking stride.

When the degree of difficulty increased, Watson’s hands were glue. The easy catches eluded him.

“A lot of it,” Pauley says, “was just focus drops. ‘What am I going to do with this football after I catch it?’ Well, let’s take a step back. Let’s catch it first. I’ve had this conversation with him, ‘When I catch the ball, I want to score.’ Well, let’s make sure that completions are the most important thing. Let your athleticism and your yards after catch happen after that.”

Watson never had to worry whether the football would keep coming to him at North Dakota State. He was the guy. Nobody stretched the field like him. Roehl chuckles as he recalls how many different ways he dialed up plays for his best receiver. He was far more than a perimeter threat. Watson lined up in the slot. He took jet sweeps. He even played a bit of running back.

If his hands failed, North Dakota State simply handed Watson the football.

“We used him,” Roehl says, “like Deebo (Samuel) in San Fran before Deebo was Deebo.”

Watson could score a touchdown from anywhere. They sometimes came in rapid succession. In the FCS national semifinal his sophomore season, he sprinted past a Montana State cornerback down the left sideline. Watson caught a high-arching pass from Trey Lance, who would become the No. 3 overall pick by the 49ers in 2021, for a 75-yard touchdown.

On North Dakota State’s next play, Lance handed off to Watson for a power read jet sweep. One Montana State defender slipped in the backfield, a crease opened, and Watson pulled away for a 70-yard score.

Two touches. Two touchdowns. Both at least 70 yards. In less than two minutes, a 7-7 tie became a 21-7 cushion. North Dakota State advanced to the championship game with a 42-14 win.

“That,” Roehl says, “is where you really saw his speed just cut loose. It was like, ‘Whoa.’ You can’t have proper angles on this kid.”

The undersized receiver with no scholarship offer, no hope of playing college football, transformed. Watson was a monster terrorizing the FCS. He averaged more than 20 yards per catch — and 8 yards per rush — in his career. “I don’t feel bad,” big brother Tré Watson says, “being the second-best athlete amongst the siblings.” Watson helped North Dakota State win three national championships in four years. As a senior, he earned first-team all-American honors. Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl, tweeted before the draft that one rival Missouri Valley Conference coach told him Watson was the best FCS receiver since Randy Moss.

Watson's father, reflecting on his NFL days, takes it a step further.

“Having seen him from birth until now,” Wajed says, “Christian Watson has been one of the single greatest athletes I have seen in person in my life. And I’ve seen every single possible thing he can do.”

The rookie who became ‘I.C.E. C.O.L.D.’

The game never stopped being fun for Wajed. No matter how many twists and turns his career took, he wanted more. After retirement, he spent a few seasons coaching defensive backs in NFL Europe. He tracked his sons’ football careers like a scout. Wajed watches not only the all-22 view of their games, but their opponents.

“My cells,” he says, “are shaped like footballs.”

Wajed spent the night before his son’s first NFL game like a kid on Christmas Eve. The Packers were going big on their first play, sending Watson deep, and Dad couldn’t wait. He watched Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson line up across Watson, incredulous how the potential Hall of Famer crouched in his stance. Peterson leaned on his toes, rocking forward, ready to pounce.

“It just threw me off,” Wajed says. “I’m like, ‘What is he doing? Does he not know? He’s about to get roasted.’ I mean, I saw it from his lineup. He’s about to get absolutely killed right here.”

Dad wasn’t wrong. On the snap, Watson exploded off the line of scrimmage. He feigned an inside route before curving ever so slightly back to the sideline, never slowing down. Ten yards downfield, he already had a step on Peterson.

As Rodgers wound back to throw, Watson kept pulling away. Peterson looked back at the quarterback, ahead at Watson, and knew he was beat. He stumbled as he flailed to catch up, allowing Watson to run 3 yards ahead of him.

It was a rookie receiver’s dream. Watson hadn’t played a snap in the preseason. His first time on an NFL field, his very first play, he was going to house one of the best cornerbacks of his generation.

“You couldn’t envision,” Tré Watson says, “a more perfect start to your football career than what that was going to be.”

The deep shot wasn’t coincidence. Jason Vrable, the Packers receivers coach, saw a special athlete when he studied Watson’s college film. “There were very few guys in this draft class,” Vrable says, “who could take a jet sweep 50 yards, and there was nobody within 10 yards of him on the tape.” At the NFL scouting combine, Watson measured 6-4, 208 pounds and ran a 4.36 40, faster than 5-10, 196-pound cornerback Jaire Alexander. Watson’s raw athletic score was 9.96.

Since 1987, only Calvin Johnson scored a perfect 10. Julio Jones, at 9.97, was among nine receivers with a higher score.

Gutekunst initially tried to trade back into the first round for Watson. The Vikings had the 32nd overall pick, but they drafted Georgia safety Lewis Cine. Gutekunst went to bed that night determined to get his replacement for Adams, who he traded away one month earlier. He didn’t wait long the next day, sending a pair of second-round picks to Minnesota for No. 34.

It took offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich one practice to understand his general manager’s urgency.

“The first time I saw him run routes,” Stenavich says, “you saw the speed, his get-off, and the way he attacked the secondary, and you were like, ‘Wow, this guy has a chance to be pretty good.’ It was just his drive off the ball, compared with his size. A lot of times, you see a really fast guy who might not be very big, but he is 6-4, and he is coming off the rock at a good rate.”

The Packers wanted to open their season unleashing Watson’s speed, the way an owner of a new Ferrari might pull the cover off its hood. As he raced past Peterson, their plan was perfection. The veteran cornerback was caught completely off guard, unaware Watson is not the type of receiver to squat on underneath routes. When Rodgers’ pass descended inside U.S. Bank Stadium, Watson thought touchdown. The football slipped through his hands instead. Watson slapped his helmet in disgust as he throttled down.

Back home, Wajed was aghast. He’s seen his son drop passes. He knew the knock on Watson entering the draft, that his hands could fail him, came with some legitimacy.

He’d never seen a drop like this.

“Of course we understand some of the issues as it relates to Christian needing to get more consistent with his hands,” Wajed says, “but the particular one that he dropped, he does not drop. I mean, you go through his entire college career. He does not drop that deep ball that drops in his basket. He doesn’t drop that one. So it was so surprising to see him drop that particular ball.”

Watson shrugged it off after the game. If he got the same pass 100 times, he told reporters at his locker, he’d catch 99. He itched to get another chance. A week later, Vrable says, Watson got open deep a few times against the Chicago Bears. Rodgers didn’t throw him the football. He caught all three of his targets for 9 total yards.

Then the injuries mounted. Watson missed Week 3 with a pulled hamstring. Two weeks later, he aggravated the hamstring in London against the Giants. He wouldn’t play the next two weeks. In his first drive back against the Buffalo Bills, Watson caught a screen at the line of scrimmage on third-and-15. He made a beeline for the first-down marker, a dead sprint, but Bills safety Damar Hamlin collided with him head on.

Watson lay on the turf at Highmark Stadium, motionless. He cleared concussion protocol that week, but after catching an 18-yard pass on third-and-4 early in the second half at Detroit, two defenders sandwiched him. Watson didn’t return.

His inability to stay on the field gave Watson time to think. About the drop. About unfulfilled expectations.

“I can tell myself all the time, ‘I got it, I got it,’” Watson says, “but when you’re going such a long time without you seeing it, it kind of starts to dwindle.”

Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) catches a touchdown pass as Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (3) defends Nov. 13 at Lambeau Field.

Watson returned a week after Detroit. When he dropped his first two passes from Rodgers, the disappointment could have buried him. Rodgers approached his rookie on the sideline, telling him he’d get another target. Matt LaFleur followed. Then Randall Cobb. The moment Watson beat Brown deep, the same way he’d beaten Peterson, Wajed rose to his feet.

He watched his son backflip in the end zone, and everything changed.

“It was poetic justice,” Wajed says.

Watson scored twice more that afternoon, becoming only the fourth Packers rookie to catch three touchdown passes in a game. Four days later, he caught two more touchdowns from Rodgers. Watson caught another touchdown a week later, receiving a slant pass from Jordan Love and beating two Philadelphia Eagles defenders to the end zone. He scored two more last week in Chicago, the first a fourth-down catch 17 seconds before halftime, the second a 46-yard jet sweep that sealed victory.

Austin, on the road recruiting now for Northern Iowa, tracked the last month from afar. “It’s like watching one of my own kids,” he says. Driving through Minneapolis, his GPS relaying directions in his ear, Austin remembers the acronym that became a motto at North Dakota State: ICECOLD.

It stood for: I Catch Everything, Crushing Opponents’ Life Dreams.

“Watching Christian,” Austin says, “that’s what he’s displaying now.”

The green light

On the sideline Sunday against the Bears, Rodgers questioned his coach’s play call. Not because he thought it would fail. The quarterback had a hunch LaFleur’s play might work too well.

The Packers nursed a one-point lead with two minutes left. Near midfield, they were one first down from passing Chicago for most wins in NFL history. The Bears had all three timeouts, enough to mount a drive if they got the football back. Rodgers knew they would if the Packers ran LaFleur’s play. Because Watson was about to score.

When Rodgers returned to the huddle, he gave the green light.

“All I heard,” Watson says, “was ‘score.’ And that’s what I do.”

Nobody touched Watson as he took the jet sweep and sprinted down the left sideline on his way to the end zone.

Christian Watson was named the NFC’s offensive rookie of the month in November, with eight touchdowns in the past four games.

It should be impossible for Watson to continue this pace. No rookie in NFL history has scored more frequently. Watson’s eight touchdowns in the past four games ties Moss for the league’s rookie record in that span. Watson was named the NFC’s offensive rookie of the month in November. He was in the weight room last week, away from the text messages blowing up his phone, when Rodgers approached him with the news.

“It was a cool interaction,” Watson says, smiling. “He congratulated me.”

The quarterback who wouldn't throw Watson the football deep in Week 2 knows his receiver can score from anywhere on the field now. In four weeks, Watson catapulted to the head of the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year race. Where this rise stops, nobody knows. Wajed believes it is just the beginning, a tip of the iceberg, much more lurking beneath the surface. His son’s confidence is back. He, more than anyone, knows Watson has no limit to what he can do next.

If he keeps scoring, Watson might just add a little spice before his Lambeau leaps. He hasn’t pulled out the backflip since that first touchdown, but it’s coming. He’s waiting for the right moment. When he reached the end zone Sunday in Chicago, the entire Bears defense behind him, Watson was unsure what to do. He leaped in the air awkwardly, arms and legs sprawling, chest exposed to the wind. The rookie hung there for a moment, goal line beneath him, until he turned his shoulder and braced for the ground.

At least Christian Watson found a safe place to land.