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Patriots sign rookie free agent RB Derek Watson; release two others

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots announced the signing of rookie free agent running back Derek Watson today. The team also announced that they have waived two rookie free agents; wide receiver Michael Hayes and safety Chris Massey. Both Hayes and Massey were signed as non-drafted rookie free agents on May 1, 2003.

Watson, 22, rushed for 2,374 yards and 19 touchdowns on 491 carries (4.8 avg.) during his college career. Last year, the 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound running back rushed for 296 yards and three touchdowns on 54 carries (5.5 avg.) at South Carolina State. He also had six receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown.

After rushing for 6,766 yards and 88 touchdowns at Palmetto High in Williamston, S.C., Watson matriculated to the University of South Carolina. He led the Gamecocks in rushing in each of his first two seasons at USC. As a freshman, he rushed for 394 yards on 111 carries (3.5 avg.). The following year, he led the SEC in all-purpose yardage (166.7 per game) and earned second-team All-SEC honors after rushing for 1,066 yards and 11 touchdowns on 187 carries (5.7 avg.). He also led the team with a 21.5-yard average on 25 kickoff returns and finished fourth on the team with 21 receptions.

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