On National Signing Day 2016, Admiral Farragut Academy had six football athletes sign with their respective colleges.
The wait is over. With family and friends in attendance in the Roy M. Speer Student Center at Admiral Farragut Academy, Craig Watts Jr. donned a green-and-gold baseball cap and signed his letter of intent on Wednesday to play football at the University of South Florida.
“It’s a relief to finally be here at this point,” said Craig, who is ranked as a four-star defensive back by most recruiting services. “It was incredibly emotional signing the letter because it brought me back to all the days of hard work with my father. I started thinking about the first few years playing football at a young age and realizing how fast this all seems. It’s surreal.”
While the journey seemed like a blur for Craig, he admitted the angst of the past few months has been trying, when he switched from a verbal commitment to Wisconsin then Colorado before ultimately staying close to home.
“I just felt it was the best place for me,” said Craig, who also drew strong interest from Florida State, North Carolina and Ohio State. “Being able to play in front of my family was a big factor and playing for a coach like (USF coach Willie) Taggart were big difference makers as well.”
Along with Craig, five other Farragut football players signed with their respective colleges, including L’Dre Barnes (Bethune Cookman), Alex Gray (Dodge City Community College), James Morrison (New Mexico Military Institute), De’Andre Oliver (Coffeyville Community College) and Dorian Williams (Coffeyville Community College).
Craig Watts Sr., who coached his son along with L’Dre and Dorian in St. Petersburg recreation leagues, was in attendance with his wife, Erika and said this day is about “another step in their journey.”
“To see all three of them stay focused and have a goal in mind, it’s amazing,” said Craig Sr., who also served as an assistant at Gibbs. “You obviously want your son to accomplish anything in life. To see him and his friends set their heart and mind to something and to see them accomplish it is truly a blessing.”
Erika Watts emphasized how the decision to send her son, along with Keondre and Keasia, to Farragut will pay huge dividends for Craig as he moves on to the college life.
“Having been in this environment will help him be incredibly successful as a student and athlete once he gets to USF,” Erika said. “Being in a disciplined environment like this with structure and order has already made him into a better young man. In addition, the diverse community that is here at Farragut mirrors what college will be like. He couldn’t have found an environment like this anywhere else.”
Joey Johnston, a reporter with the Tampa Tribune who was on campus Tuesday to interview Craig for a Sunday feature, agreed with Erika’s statement about Farragut, saying the college-like atmosphere prepares student athletes unlike any other institution.
“It’s immeasurable, the type of education they’re receiving here,” said Johnston, who has been covering high school sports in the Tampa Bay area since 1980. “It’s what you’ve want for every kid to have that kind of background going into college. Some kids go there and get a little lost, overwhelmed by the whole thing. Here, you have good college prep, discipline, time management skills, learning how to be respectful, polite and learning how to deal with people of different cultures which is huge in college. I’d have to say it’s the perfect steppingstone for (Craig) and all the students here.”
By: Chris Girandola, Senior Staff Writer, Admiral Farragut Academy