Watkins Under The Lights

Ohio junior Dareian Watkins visited Illinois, who was first to offer him. He talked about getting back to where it all began for him in recruiting.

One guy Illinois has been looking to get back on campus for some time now is Galion, OH product Dareian Watkins. Watkins does it all for his high school team, and he's attracting plenty of attention as a junior.

Watkins has been anticipating the visit for some time now too, so to finally make it to Champaign was a milestone.

"It's reliving," he said. "I've been looking forward to coming to a game since they offered me. Now to finally get here for a night game is really exciting. That's the type of game I hope to come for. To be able to get to an Illinois night game is exciting."

Watkins took in the Illinois game under the lights at Memorial Stadium. Just like in high school, Watkins is a bigger fan of the night game atmosphere.

"The atmosphere is much better (at a night game)," Watkins said. "Last weekend I was at Michigan State, and it's just different. Being in high school, you're used to night games, so it feels more like you're at home and you're used to it."

One thing Illinois has that no other school on Watkins' list is the distinction of being the first college program to extend him a scholarship offer. That in itself really stands out to him.

"Having Illinois, a Big Ten School, giving you your first offer is kind of mind-boggling," he said, "because usually you start out with the MAC schools and you work your way up to the big ten, so getting Illinois as my first offer was exciting. I've stuck with Illinois because they were there from the beginning. I've been in contact with the coaches just about every day. I like it here. It feels like home, and being orange and blue, those are my home colors. I wouldn't have to change anything."

Besides the Illini, the likes of Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, and Florida are also involved with him, even at this early stage.

Watkins is very close with his family. If you know his story, you understand why. But when it comes to his future in college, he knows his family will be there for him and support him no matter how far from home he goes.

"I'm debating (distance) right now," he said. "I'm not sure what all will be a factor. I haven't been to any of the further –out school s yet. I don't think it will be too big of a factor. Like Oregon, that would be pretty far out. I'd have to talk to my parents about it, but I don't think distance will be too big of a factor. Not to me anyway."

But even though Illinois is a few hours away from Galion, the Illinois coaches have done a great job forming a relationship with Watkins.

"I really like the way I can talk to the coaches," he said. "I came here and they all sat down with me and talked to me and took me to talk to Coach Beckman. I have a pretty tight connection with the coaches. That's one of the things you look for, and with this staff it's easy because they all talk to me. That's really it. The coaches make this one."

One coach in specific stands out to Watkins. Though Coach Mike Ward is one of the older coaches on staff, Watkins says he has no problem relating to him at all.

"Coach Ward is a cool guy," he said. "He comes to the school and visits and talks to me all the time on Facebook. The way he talks, you wouldn't know his age because he doesn't act old. He knows what he's doing."

Watkins originally thought about wrapping up his recruitment before his senior year, but the opportunity to experience the entire process has him thinking he'll ride it out. That is, unless the right fit comes along.

"I've been thinking about doing a decision at the conclusion of my junior year," he said, "but the thing is you wouldn't get to experience as much. So since the start of the recruiting process, I've kind of been wanting to some official visits to some places that I wouldn't normally be able to make it to. But if I do find a school that really fits what I want, that could change."

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