Detroit TSA officer fulfills dream to play college football

Thursday, March 3, 2022
Jalen Watson in action photo

A TSA officer at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) is fulfilling his dream of playing college football.

Officer Watson photo
DTW TSA Officer Jalen Watson at the explosive trace detection machine. (Photo courtesy of TSA DTW)

Jalen Watson, a sophomore student at Wayne State University, has accepted an offer to play on the school’s football team. After watching film, coaches invited 11 people to try out for the team, but Watson was the only one who made the squad.

“Being accepted to Wayne State University is every kid’s dream and is the next step to pro football,” Watson said. “When I was younger, my mom gave me a WSU practice jersey, and now I’m able to play football wearing one.”

Wayne State is an NCAA Division II college football team in Detroit and competes in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Watson started playing football when he was 14. His mother tried getting him to play football when he was 7, but he was too scared and took his helmet off. What a change a few years made!

In his freshman year of high school, he scored two touchdowns in his first game, fell in love with the sport and went on college visits. Watson was a top performer in football camps and in high school played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He’s joining WSU as a wide receiver.

“It’s always been a dream of mine, because I love the sport, and my family has a sports background,” Watson said. “Hall of Famer Tiki Barber of the New York Giants and Ronde Barber from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are my cousins, and I feel if you have a dream, don’t give up on it.”

Jalen Watson photo
DTW TSO Jalen Watson (Photo courtesy of TSA DTW)

Despite what will be a busy class and football schedule, Watson isn’t planning to give up his TSA career quite yet. He joined the TSA DTW team as a full-time officer in March 2019 but recently transitioned to part-time due to his full-time college studies and now to fulfill this once-in-a-lifetime football opportunity.

“I joined TSA because I wanted a bigger purpose for myself,” Watson recalled. “My mom, who worked for Delta Air Lines at the time, shared her story of Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 when the underwear bomber tried his failed attempt. I knew I could make an impact to protect other people.”

TSA DTW is all behind Watson and is committed to help him live out his dream.

“Jalen comes in everyday and is committed to his work,” said TSA Manager Kristin Campanella. “This job teaches you discipline and has helped his everyday life. He is an asset to the DTW team.”

Watson, who had to step out of his comfort zone to get to where he is today, encourages his coworkers to keep doing what they love in life. He believes in a quote by Will Smith – “The best things in life are on the other side of fear.”

Watson’s ultimate career goals are the NFL, acting or to be an entrepreneur.

“I want to have a long-term impact on people,” said Watson. “It’s never too late to reach your end goal.”

By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs