Dynamic Superstar Picks Gators

Wide receiver, check. Quarterback, check. Kick return, check. Cornerback, check. Florida Gator, check.

Football at any level gives new meaning to "team" that is of course unless Mr. Everything Jaylen Watkins is on your team. Watkins, a 6-0, 175-pound, 4.4-speed merchant lined up all over the field for his Cape Coral High School teammates last season. A season in which he racked up 419 passing yards going 36-for-45 completing nearly 80 percent of his attempts. Watkins added 329 rushing yards, 74 tackles, three interceptions and four kick returns for 244 yards and two more touchdowns. This was coming off a very impressive sophomore season when he ended with 28 catches for 328 yards, 45 tackles and seven interceptions.

It's the kind of accomplishments that's brought national recognition as Watkins checks in at No. 19 on the Scout.com South Regional 150 and No. 59 on the prestigious Scout.com National Top 100. With his ability on both sides of the ball it's no wonder he holds offers from some of the nation's elite programs. LSU, Georgia, Miami, Florida, Boston College, Ole Miss, Tennessee, FSU, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Michigan, Stanford, Duke, Wake Forest, Marshall, UCF Alabama, North Carolina, Notre Dame and West Virginia have all extended offers.

While the two-way standout has been to Florida three times and Miami once the decision was a very easy one for he and his family. The plan was wait until April 10 so he could tell the Florida staff in person but the thought of becoming a Gator was something he just couldn't wait on any longer.

March 30th:

"At first I called Coach Meyer but he didn't answer because they were in practice and then I emailed him and let him know that I was becoming a Gator," Watkins said. "About an hour later when practice was over he emailed back and told me to call. He told me that the entire Gator staff is excited and was hoping that I would be a Gator and they just can't wait until April 10 when I go up for a visit so we can spend even more time together. Then I called Coach Bedford and informed him and he said that I completely made his day and that he is very excited that we can have a career together and that he will sleep well tonight."

"Florida is a place that I just felt comfortable at during all three visits that I made," he said. "Everyone treated me like family when I was there. The visit that I took to Miami a few weeks ago went great but when it all came down to it, it didn't match up with the Gators. Florida is just a place where I feel I can spend the next 4-5 years of my life with no regrets and become a great athlete while getting one of the best educations in the nation. The staff is great, the environment is great, the fans are crazy and I would love to be part of a National Championship when I get there."

Things weren't always easy for his mother, Ms. Brandy Green. She raised Watkins and his three other siblings as a single parent, but all those hard years paid off. Now Ms. Green and the rest of the family couldn't be more proud for not only Watkin's prowess on the field, but off it as well.

"As a single mother raising four children, I can truly see that it has now paid off," she said. "I'm very proud of Jaylen for being consistent with maintaining his grades, displaying a positive attitude toward his team and peers, and most of all respecting and holding on to the morals and values that have been instilled in him from his childhood. As far as one day seeing Jaylen playing for a school like Florida, I would have to be honest and say because I believe in my son receiving a college education, I knew he would attend college especially once all the offers begin to come our way; however when the offer came from Florida it was like knowing your parents would get you a gift for your birthday or Christmas but to open that last gift and realize this is exactly what I wanted but to see the smile on your child's face as that gift came about. I felt so proud that my son earned the privilege to attend Florida through hard work and dedication."

Watkins and his mother have a very special bond that has as much to do with his success on the field as anything. She is the one that remembers being at the park at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday's when Watkins was a member of the Fort Myers Rebels Flag A team.

"I can remember this as though it was yesterday because he had to be to the football field every Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. to weigh in and please don't let us have an away game because that meant we had to get up extra earlier," she said. "And of course once he got dressed and the travel begin he would fall asleep but once we arrived at the football field he would wake up right away. I never had to tell him to be ready for football practice or get his gear ready on Friday night for his Saturday game because he would do it soon as he got out of school on Friday."

Some children have a security blanket but for Watkins the choice just seemed natural and that is what his mother will remember most.

"My favorite memory of Jaylen when it comes to football would be everywhere we go, Jaylen would always have a football in his hand, whether he was in the bathtub, watching television, buckled down in the car seat, running around outside in his pamper he had a football, and even when I would drop him off at daycare he would have that football in his hand which was a problem because kids could not bring toys from home to the daycare," she said. "I would have to bribe him to give me the ball and tell him that mommy would keep the ball with her so that he wouldn't lose it. Jaylen would even have me late for work sometimes if we left the house without the ball, I would have to turn around to go back and get the football."

The recruiting process has been long and at times overwhelming for Watkins and his mother and neither of them knew how time consuming it would become especially Ms. Green.

"The recruiting process can be overwhelming when you begin receiving letters from different colleges," she said. "It can be overpowering to the family as a whole trying to make the right decision and especially for the child because they want to make the right decision and please their family at the same time. As the process begin, we narrowed our choices down to the top three schools by looking at their academic program, athletic program, and of course the values and belief system. I then as a parent had to step back and allow Jaylen to make the final decision and support his decision. I know he was concerned about his mother and making it to his games because I have never missed any of his pop-warner games or high school games since he begin playing; however I had to explain to Jaylen that he had to make that decision for himself because I wanted him to be happy with his decision not because this is what my mom, dad, or family members wanted for me."

As time consuming as the recruiting process has become Ms. Green also understands how gratifying a decision this is and what an important time in not only her sons life but hers as well.

"It is a blessing to see that my son was offered a full scholarship from a school that has had two national championships in the past three years but most important the one of the highest graduation rate in the nation for athletes. As we begin receiving letters from different schools, it was like okay this is nice that you have a variety of schools interested in you, but when the offer finally came in from Florida it was like ‘Are you serious?'"

Not just from Watkins, his mom and dad, or family members, but people in the community begin to tell him how proud they were of him displaying a positive attitude and having such a humble spirit and now it has paid off for him.

"Now I can begin to buy my Gator attire," Watkins' mother said.

The bond within the Watkins/Green family is very strong and that kind of family atmosphere is something that both mother and son wanted to find at the next level and that's exactly what they have found within the Gator Nation. Watkins talked about three members of the Gator coaching staff and the relationship with each.

Head Coach Urban Meyer: "The first time I met Coach Myer was at the junior day in January and he's a great guy. For the past couple of weeks Coach Myer and I have kept in touch maybe twice a week. We talked about what the University of Florida has to offer me and he's a straight forward guy. He said that I would get one of the best educations in the nation from Florida and education was the number one factor in my decision."

Position Coach Vance Bedford: "Coach Bedford and I built a great relationship. From day one we talked maybe twice a week just to touch bass with each other and see how things are going and that's just a great feeling to know that my position coach and I have a great relationship with each other already and I haven't even got there yet!"

As important as it is to have a great relationship with the head coach and position coach it's equally important to have a great relationship with your recruiting coach.

Recruiting Coach/Offensive Coordinator Steve Addazio: "Coach Addazio is a great guy. He's straight forward and has the qualities I am looking for in a coach. Over this recruiting process he was honest with me and we talked almost every other day about me being a Gator. He told me that it would be a slow process but it all worked out for the best."

Watkins couldn't be any happier to have the recruiting process over with.

"It is very exciting actually because now I can focus on my early enrollment in December, and also helping my teammates get to the point that I'm at right now by being a leader and showing them the things I did."

As far as playing for a national championship caliber type team on national television week in and week out it's more of the same for the two-way standout.

"The two games that I did attend which was MIAMI and LSU," Watkins said. "I was blown away. The Swamp is crazy. You can't hear anything but Gator fans screaming and yelling all four quarters and I just can't wait until I run through the tunnel."

One of the reasons that Florida has been so successful under Urban Meyer is because they truly are a family. The coaches and players have no boundaries between them and the chemistry among the players is truly a special thing to witness. The relationship that this year's class is building will pay huge dividends in the coming years at Florida. The class of 2010 has a very strong bond amongst more than a few committed Gators and Watkins spoke about his bond with another future Gator player, quarterback Trey Burton.

"Me and Trey are really cool. For the past two years we have met in the first round of the playoffs. Our sophomore year, we won 27-10 I picked him off in the first quarter. Our junior year, they won 35-14 and he scored all 35 points. He's a great player. We text all the time and touch base with each other."

Jaylen Watkins is as unselfish a football player as you will find anywhere in the country and shared his thoughts on the best part of his game and his first football memory.

"The best part about my game is that when the ball is in the air I'm coming down with it whether I'm on offense or defense. I'm the kind of player that's competitive and willing to do anything to help my team win. When I was nine and I played Pop Warner football I started at left guard for the entire season except the last game of the season. I begged my coach to let me run the ball and when I got it I scored on a little 30-yard run."

More good news on the way for Gator fans down the road? All in the family as Watkins has a little brother who wants to follow in big brother's footsteps.

"My little brother's name is Sammy Watkins and he plays wide receiver for South Fort Meyers. He is currently 6-1 and 180-pounds and finished his sophomore season with 23 catches for 527 yards and seven touchdowns on offense and on defense he had 31 tackles and two interceptions and he wants to go wherever I go."


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