It was 3 a.m., and Sammy Watkins was wide awake.
Two weeks before he was set to report to his first Chiefs training camp, the wide receiver knew it was time for a change.
So in the middle of the night, he took a pair of clippers and went to work, shearing off the dreads he’d worn for over a decade.
“Kind of just wanted to be different this season and just be about business,” Watkins said. “I’ve had them for 12, 13 years. I’m 25 now. I don’t want to be 40 with dreads. I just decided to cut it.”
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The look was such a drastic change that some of his new teammates didn’t recognize the Clemson product when he moved into his dorm room on Wednesday.
“I definitely had to give him a second look, for sure,” tight end Travis Kelce said. “It’s fitting though. He’s a high-character guy, and he just comes in and he goes to work.”
It took Watkins an hour or two that night to complete the first phase of his transformation, evening out the cut and lining it up all by himself.
As for the second phase? Work on that started Thursday afternoon as Watkins took the field in St. Joseph.
Even without his signature dreadlocks poking out from underneath his helmet, Watkins was hard to miss.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes connected with him on 2 of 3 targets, including a 45-yard bomb over the middle that drew a loud applause from the fans scattered around the practice fields.
The lone incompletion between the pair came when Mahomes overthrew the veteran receiver in the second offensive period.
“Of course we’ve got chemistry, just from working in OTAs, but we’ve got to get on the same page, when he looks at me I know what he’s thinking and he’s gonna know what I’m thinking,” Watkins said. “Of course, we’re not there yet. We’ve got to go through this training camp and play in a couple games together, be in a real game and feel each other out.”
During his career, Watkins has been a lightning rod, grabbing headlines for his frequent injuries and complaints about playing time in Buffalo.
After putting up 2,029 yards and 15 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Bills, Watkins struggled to replicate that success.
He fractured his left foot in 2016, an injury that lingered and caused him to miss eight games. Prior to the 2017 regular season, he was traded to the Rams and later missed a game with a concussion.
His output in his lone year with the Rams was just average: 593 yards and eight touchdowns on 39 receptions.
But thanks to a three-year, $48 million deal with the Chiefs, Watkins has a fresh start.
“I don’t have to come here and be somebody that I’m not,” he said. “I got great guys that are going to make plays. I can feed off of those guys. I don’t have to make every catch and every play. I know if I’m not getting the ball, other guys are going to go out there and score touchdowns.”
If Watkins wanted his transformation to show he’s serious about his craft, he’s already achieving his goal.
“He’s all business,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said. “I love the way he goes about it. A true pro.”