Former Wendy’s worker grills Chargers with 99-yard pick six in Chiefs’ win

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson runs an interception back for a touchdown.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson runs an interception back for a touchdown during the second half against the Chargers on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Jaylen Watson puts the fast in fast food.

The onetime Wendy’s worker wound up grilling the Chargers on Thursday night, returning an interception 99 yards for a spirit-snapping touchdown in Kansas City’s 27-24 victory.

Decibelwise, the obscure rookie cornerback transformed Arrowhead Stadium from a library to a cover-your-ears launch pad with his brilliant play.


He stepped in front of a Justin Herbert throw, plucking a pass that was intended for tight end Gerald Everett then running the length of the field to put the Chiefs up 24-17, their first lead of the game.

Along the way, Watson, a seventh-round pick who wouldn’t have been starting but for a teammate’s injury, slipped the desperate grasp of Herbert, who made a futile attempt of tackling him.

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“We have a rule as DBs, you can never get tackled by a quarterback,” Watson said. “That’s my first job, make a move on him and just try to race to the end zone.”

As regular-season games go, the stage could not have been bigger. This was the curtain-lifter for Amazon Prime, which has exclusive streaming rights on Thursday nights, and watching from a suite were NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jeff Bezos, chairman of Amazon.

On this night, Watson felt like the richest guy in the place. He had hoped to go to USC after two years at Ventura College but instead had to move home to Augusta, Ga., because he didn’t have the grades to transfer. So he worked with his mother, who is a manager at Wendy’s.


“I love her to death but it was terrible,” he told reporters in Kansas City earlier this year.

“It’s so bad, you get no breaks away from your mom — you go to work, you’re with your mom. You go home, you’re with your mom. You can’t even talk about work. It’s just bad. But I still love her.”

Chargers tight end Gerald Everett (7) runs after a catch as Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed (38) pursues.
Chargers tight end Gerald Everett (7) runs after a catch as Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (38) pursues. Everett, who finished the game with six catches for 71 yards, was the target on the interception that turned the game.
(Ed Zurga / Associated Press)

Not surprisingly, his mom was in the stands Thursday night to witness the greatest moment of his career.

Watson never could have dreamed this would happen just a few months after a disappointing draft weekend.

“It was so nerve-racking,” he said earlier this year. “Me personally, I wasn’t expecting to go that late, so I was kind of down. Everyone was telling me, ‘Stay off your phone,’ because I’m looking at every draft pick on Day 3, because I knew I was going to be a Day 3 guy. Everyone kept aggravating me and they were irritating.”

Watson, who wound up attending Washington State and lingered all the way until the seventh round, got the starting nod as the result of an injury to rookie first-round pick Trent McDuffie.

Watson was apprised of the decision Monday but was hardly overwhelmed by the moment — even on Thursday morning.

“I woke up knowing I was going to get a pick,” he said. “I just knew being a seventh-rounder and getting my first start, I was going to get tested a lot. I just felt I was going to get one today.”

He stood at the lecternand talked to a room full of reporters and cameras after the game, and his phone was constantly buzzing. Text after text after text.

His golden moment came with 10 minutes, 29 seconds remaining, and the Chargers moving into position to break a 17-17 tie. Herbert put them into point-blank range of the end zone with consecutive completions to Everett of seven and 27 yards.

The Chargers were tearing off plays so quickly that they didn’t notice a gassed Everett asking to come off the field before the fateful snap. Then, in a blink, it happened. Throw. Pick. Return. Pandemonium.

“Credit to their offense, they’re a very good team on that side of the ball,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “I felt like our conditioning level was just a little bit better. That’s the way we practice and we train, and it made a difference.”

The way Watson sees it, the unconventional path he traveled helped him put his stamp on Thursday night.

“I’m just a very resilient person,” he said. “Always working for what I have. I’ve never been given anything. That gave me an edge on the football field as well. I’ve just tried to carry that edge. Show some hunger. Show some anger on the football field, and let it out on the opponents.”

Like an Amazon driver, Herbert got the package to the front porch.

But on this night, it was Watson who truly delivered.

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Aug. 14, 2022