Justin Watson picks rookie camp over Penn graduation ceremony

Justin Watson finished his four-year career at Penn as the school's career leader in receptions (286) and in receiving touchdowns (33), among others. Chuck Cook/USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie wide receiver Justin Watson won't be walking across the stage in a cap and gown at his college graduation Sunday morning. Instead, the Bucs' 2018 fifth-round draft pick will be more than 1,000 miles away in Tampa, Florida, getting ready for the final day of rookie minicamp.

But it's not just any graduation ceremony that he'll miss -- it's his graduation from University of Pennsylvania's renowned Wharton School. With an admission rate below 7 percent and an average SAT score of 1499, it is largely considered one of the top undergraduate business schools in the country.

"We've got rookie minicamp the 11th, 12th and 13th. The school graduation is Monday the 14th, but the Wharton graduation is the 13th. I think I'm ready to just be down in Tampa and kind of move on to football," Watson told ESPN. "This last semester has been [challenging]. I mean, all I want to do is just be all football. I'm kind of excited to move on to the next chapter."

Watson's agent Joe Linta joked, "He wanted to miss it and I told him I'd fire him if he missed graduation. My son is an Ivy League quarterback and I'd disown him if he tried that." (Note: Linta didn't actually fire him).

Watson is in rare company. He was one of just two Ivy League players selected in this year's NFL draft, with the other being Yale safety Foyesade Oluokun, who was selected in the sixth round by the Atlanta Falcons.

Just a handful of NFL players who attended Ivy League schools took regular-season snaps last season, including two on Watson's new team -- tight end Cameron Brate and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, both Harvard graduates.

It's not the first time Watson, who will earn a degree in finance, has chosen football. He turned down an internship at Goldman Sachs last summer to stay at Penn. As a team captain, he felt he needed to be practicing with his teammates.

"He opted not to do that, to stay and work in Philly to train with his team. That's just how he's driven," said Penn football coach Ray Priore, who praised Watson for going against the grain and following his heart. "In our world, our alumni [were] just sort of shocked at how he'd turn down an opportunity. That opportunity would have landed him a big, big-time job when he graduated, a six-figure job. He felt, to this day, that he had other goals that he wanted to accomplish."

The good news is the rookie contract Watson and the Bucs agreed to on Wednesday has him slated to earn $555,434 his first year, assuming he makes the 53-man roster. If he sticks with the team all four years, his total earnings will exceed $2.76 million.