Younger Watkins impresses on track

WINTER PARK – Saturday’s FHSAA Class 2A state track meet didn’t go quite the way top wide receiver prospect Sammy Watkins (6-2, 195, Fort Myers, Fla. / South Fort Myers) envisioned. After running some blazing times on the track last week at the regional qualifier at Golden Gate High School in Naples, he wasn’t able to build on his first-ever sub-10.7 second time in the 100 meters.

“I wasn’t completely happy,” Watkins said following Saturday’s meet at legendary Showalter Field. “The guy who won the 100 meters (freshman Jerimy Strainge of North Broward Prep) ran 10.66, and I ran the same time last week.”

Watkins also had a theory as to why he didn’t do so well.

“(Friday night) I stayed up late (because of nerves), ate stuff and then I ran a bad race,” he said.

Even still, Watkins still cemented his status as one of the top young sprinters in the state, finishing the 100 finals in a time of 10.98 seconds for fifth place. He also competed in the 200 meters where he turned in a time of 21.98 seconds to place sixth on the evening.

As track comes to an end, Watkins turns his focus to football. Spring football practices started for many teams across the state of Florida on Saturday. For Watkins, it’s also a chance to narrow things down on the recruiting trail, as he is beginning to focus on the schools for which he will really look at when the fall rolls around.

“That will be known in a week or so,” Watkins said when prompted as to what his list of top schools looks like. “I’m going to narrow the list down to 10.”

One school that looks to be a lock to make Watkins’ top 10 is the University of Florida, where his brother Jaylen enrolled early as a freshman in January and took part in spring drills at the cornerback position. Sammy had a chance to take in a spring practice in Gainesville and came away very pleased with his experience at Florida.

“It was good watching the Gators, the fans, and him play period,” Watkins said of the practice. “It touched me a little bit. It made me think of playing up there – be with my brother as a teammate, Urban Meyer and the new receivers coach (Zach Azzanni). I would have fun.”

Watkins also admits that while he is glad to see his brother doing well at Florida, the experience is somewhat bittersweet.

“I miss (Jaylen), but I’m glad to see him doing good up there,” Sammy said.

While Jaylen’s presence at Florida is expected to have a bit of an impact on his recruitment, so to is the pending decision of senior teammate Dallas Crawford (5-10, 185, Fort Myers, Fla. / South Ft. Myers), a prospect who is looked upon as a potential impact defensive back on the next level. Watkins and Crawford had the chance to take in a recent spring game at the University of Michigan, and Watkins said the pair were pleased with the time they spent in Ann Arbor.

“I had a lot of fun with Dallas (Crawford) and the coaches,” Watkins said of the trip. “It was a good time.”

As to whether or not Crawford’s decision could have any impact on his own, Watkins doesn’t necessary deny that fact. But he says it’s not necessarily a make-or-break proposition.

“Yes, there’s interest,” he said. “But sometimes you have to make your own decisions and do what’s best for you.”

In any case, Watkins is continuing his rapid development on the field and on the track. Last season, Watkins had 46 receptions for 1,192 yards (a 25.9 average) and 14 touchdowns for the Wolfpack. As dangerous as he was as a receiver last year, opponents might find Watkins even tougher to cover this upcoming season as Sammy has added a solid 10-15 pounds of muscle this offseason.

“I’m 195 (pounds) at least,” he noted of his current weight. “I’ve been gaining weight! You know I’ve got to put on a little bit more muscle (before the season). But I’m always getting faster so that’s okay.”