CNO tribal member is one of the youngest head strength coaches in NCAA
By Christian Toews
April 3, 2023
Jaylon Watson was named Director of Sports Performance at Jackson State University (JSU) in Jackson, Mississippi, in February 2023.
At 26 years old, Watson is one of the youngest head strength coaches in the NCAA. Watson spent the 2022 season at Texas Tech, where the Raiders won eight games and finished the season with a win against Ole Miss at the TaxAct Texas Bowl.
Watson is a Choctaw Nation tribal member who grew up in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. He said he found sports at a young age and quickly excelled in baseball and football.
In high school, baseball took a back seat to football. Watson said he had several D1 offers to play football in college and chose to play at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
While attending and playing football, Watson said he fell in love with D1 sports. Watson played linebacker, defensive end and fullback. He was a four-year letter winner and a dean’s honor roll member. He was a 2016 Mountain West Championship team member and played in three bowl games, including wins in the Idaho Potato Bowl and Arizona Bowl.
Watson began his coaching career as an intern at his alma mater Wyoming, assisting with all aspects of the strength and conditioning program.
According to Watson, his upbringing shaped his perspective largely due to his Choctaw heritage.
His grandmother was Choctaw, and growing up around this culture was a formative experience.
“The Choctaw culture modeled good character, hard work, working for what you have, and doing your best with what you have,” he said.
According to Watson, his parents modeled this work ethic to him. They both worked hard to provide for the family.
“Seeing my parents work two jobs when I was younger, They are really hard-working people. I don’t know how they made it work, but they did. My mom is a very hard-working woman. She got that from her Choctaw grandmother,” Watson said.
Watson said he saw how culture could influence outcomes from his upbringing, which led him to succeed and create the best culture possible as a coach.
“Culture can drive a team through the roof or plummet a team to death,” said Watson.
He said he encourages everyone to learn more about the Choctaw culture that shaped much of his perspective on life.
“A lot of these kids don’t understand that it’s easy to take that (the Choctaw culture) for granted. I regret not taking more Choctaw classes. A lot of people don’t understand that it’s almost a lost language,” said Watson.
He encourages anyone with a dream to work hard toward that goal.
“Keep fighting – keep staying interested in it. Once you stop learning, you become a bad coach or bad player. The more you can soak in and take up. Just stay hungry. Learn about anything you can,” he said.
Watson graduated with a Sciences in American Studies degree from Wyoming and is pursuing a Master’s degree.
He has certifications with The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting (USAW) Level 1 Sports Performance Coach (USAW-SPL1) and American Heart Association CPR/AED.
Watson said he hopes to continue his favorite aspect of his career, “helping young men reach their full potential and become athletes.”