• John Macon Gillespie

Watkins Bringing High Hopes To Fortius

The Tupelo offense received a major boost from Amory transfer Austin Watkins last season. The shifty receiver always seemed to be making plays when the ball was in his hand. Quickness is what really set the junior apart and allowed him to make a quick impact for the Golden Wave.

It started last summer with team 7-on7s where he was able to learn the plays and build chemistry with his new teammates. It wasn’t just about getting adjusted to new teammates and a new offensive system, but it provided a learning experience for Watkins in other areas.

“The atmosphere was amazing and so different. As soon as I got there I knew it was home. They made it feel like I had always been there,” Watkins told SES Mississippi. “After 7-on-7s I knew every play, the play calls and the playing style fit perfect with me. I even learned new routes and new ways to get open.”

After the conclusion of the season Watkins was responsible for 32 catches for 430 yards and a score. His 13.4 yards per catch were even more impressive when you consider the fact that many of his receptions were at or behind the line of scrimmage. Also, he threw a 38-yard touchdown pass on his only throwing attempt last year.

Even with veteran quarterback Daniel Bristow graduating from the program and the Wave breaking in a new signal caller this Fall, Watkins is expecting big things in 2016. He is just about doing what his team needs him to do to win games.

“I expect to step up and make big plays each time the ball touches my hands. When it’s not in my hands, I exect to make huge blocks. I expect to help out the younger people that will out there with us this year. I want to help us gain yards, to make a huge impact and to be clutch,” He said.

Speaking of breaking in a new quarterback, the backups do have experience. Last season when Bristow missed time they guys behind him got game reps and will use those this season. Ray Sandroni and Donte Freeman saw time behind center last Fall and either could see time in 2016. Watkins feels whoever is the quarterback next season will have the keys to an offense full of play-makers.

“The first two games is when they will get used to the fast pace of the play-calling and the audibles. But I expect us to well every Friday night. We have a lot of weapons and I can’t wait to see what this season brings,” Watkins explained.

But before the season arrives there is time to get better. That’s exactly what the hard-working pass-catcher is using this off-season to do. On April 30th he is set to compete in the Fortius Project at ICC. He sees opportunity.

“I’m excited to meet new people that are on the same mission as with that have positive vibes,” he said. “I want to showcase my skills. I want to show people what I’m capable of and try to get my name out there.”

Watkins is interested in sharpening some of his already solid skills, but also developing other areas of his game. He’s also looking to get better, as to make it easier on the quarterback that will be throwing to him next season.

“I want to get better at creating space between me and the defender, making it easier for the quarterback,” Watkins offered. “During the off-season I want to get stronger and more explosive. I’m also working on my routes, footwork and coming off the ball faster when I’m being jammed.”

It will also offer him the chance to show the skills up close and personal that helped him to be productive in 2015. The chip on his shoulder, due to his height, bring out his persistence.

“My speed and my ability to make plays happen, with my size, is what stick out. They will see that size doesn’t matter and that I won’t give up on the play. I will go hard every time I line up,” Watkins said.

**Photo by Markietha Swinney.

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