For Canton South's J'Keem Waters the fall from prospect to suspect was a reminder of the harsh realities of life. Waters was once ranked among the top college prospects in the class of 2007. He was academically ineligible to play as a junior and has been trying to reestablish himself as a Division-1 recruit ever since.
Waters regained his eligibility and had a fine senior season, but he was too far in the hole academically to be able to qualify to play college football. Waters is hoping to use his time at Columbus State to help him qualify for admission to Ohio State. Waters is hoping to be able to join stepbrothers Devon and DeVoe Torrence at Ohio State.
"I'm blessed to have the opportunity to go to college," Waters stated. "If things go right and I do what I have to do, then I should get the chance to play football at Ohio State. I will be attending Columbus State. Coach [Jim] Tressel told me if I could achieve 30 credit hours and maintain a 3.0 grade point average that I would be admitted to Ohio State next fall."
Waters would not be on scholarship at Ohio State, if he gains admission, and would try to make the Buckeye roster as a walk-on fullback. The opportunity to play for Ohio State with his brothers would be a dream come true for Waters.
"I would not have a scholarship and that would be fine with me," Waters explained. "I just want an opportunity to try to earn a scholarship down the road. They want me to play fullback. I'm 6' tall and weigh 235 pounds right now. There is no football program at Columbus State and all I will need to concentrate on is doing well in the classroom."
Waters spoke candidly about his academic failure as a sophomore that prohibited him from playing the following season in high school.
"I learned a hard lesson that grades are the most reason to go to school," he said. "I thought football was the reason to go to school every day and I found out I was wrong. Everybody told me I was messing up, but I didn't listen until it was too late. I learned the hard way, but I'm glad I learned how important an education is. There is a reason they call it student-athlete, with the student part coming first."
Waters returned to the gridiron for his senior season and was a big part of Canton South's playoff run in 2006. Waters showed such a dramatic change in his attitude that he was voted as a captain for the Canton South team.
"That meant everything to me," Waters admitted. "I tried to show I was changed by going to every workout session and doing everything I could to show my teammates I was different. My grades were 100% better too. Last year I felt like I was home again. It hurt to have recruiters come to see Devon and DeVoe, but not be able to offer me a scholarship because of my grades. I could have went to some Division-2 or NAIA schools, but I want to play some day at Ohio State, so this is what I have to do."
If Waters is able to reestablish himself academically he will be able to go through the recruiting process again. There is a chance that he would receive scholarship offers from other schools. Would waters still come to Ohio State without a scholarship?
"I want to be at Ohio State," Waters said emphatically. "If they accept me, that's where I'm going. If I can't get in to Ohio State, then I would have to look elsewhere, but until they tell me I'm not being accepted, it's all Ohio State. Scholarship or no scholarship."