Ten promising Olympic hopefuls were chosen by USA Bobsled and Skeleton to attend their January Rookie Camp. Each of the athletes was discovered after participating in the team's annual digital combine - the third since being launched in 2020.
These athletes invited to the upcoming in-person camp join a distinct group of talent transfers - or athletes that move to a new sport later in their athletic career - that makeup USA's current bobsled roster.
The USABS Digital Combine is the ultimate showcase for athletes who fit that description. Every athlete who was found through the free open tryout this year on GMTM will be sitting in a bobsled for the first time when they arrive for the Rookie Training Camp later this month.
Gabriel Watson was one of those athletes.
Before submitting his tryout videos to USA Bobsled, Watson played two years of Division I football at the University of Texas. The 6'2", 230-pound running back played in 6 games for the Longhorns during the 2020 and 2021 football seasons.
Before arriving in Austin as a graduate transfer, Watson was a standout running back at the University of Sioux Falls - a Division-II college in South Dakota - and Diablo Valley College - a junior college in California.
During his only full season at USF before transferring to Texas, Watson was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, which is commonly referred to as D2's Heisman Trophy. During that 2018 season where he rushed for almost 2,000 yards and had 26 total touchdowns, Watson led the nation in several statistics, including:
- 100 rushing yards in all 11 games of the 2018 season
- Led Division II in rushing yards per game (177.9)
- Led Division II in points per game (14.2)
More accolades for Watson's performance throughout his Division II college career were outlined on the Texas Football website:
"Watson ... was named one of 32 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Honor Student-Athletes of the Year ... selected as the USF Athletics Men’s Athlete of the Year ... was named the NSIC Player of the Year, the D2 CCA Super Region Four Offensive Player of the Year and the Don Hansen Super Region Four Offensive Player, as well as a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award ... selected to five All-America teams ... set eight school records during his 2018 campaign ..." - from the Texas Football Roster website
Watson's career statistics are certainly a good indicator of what kind of bobsled athlete he could become. In his highlight videos submitted to USA Bobsled, you can see his explosiveness and breakaway speed on display - valuable skills for a bobsled athlete pushing a sled. Watson joins another Division-I running back that was discovered by USA Bobsled on GMTM - Charlie Volker.
But the speed at the running back position isn't Watson's only claim to fame. Before his college football career, he was an electric high school soccer player in California - who netted 13 goals in one season - and a sprinter on the track team, running the 100-meter dash and 110-meter hurdles.
With a spot at the upcoming USA Bobsled and Skeleton Rookie Camp this month, it will be exciting to watch Watson overcome the obstacles of his new winter sport.