Watkins looking forward to playing more at Lock Haven
Derrick Watkins chose Lock Haven because of it's academic history, not its football history. Last year's 0-10 football record, didn't take away from Watkins' success on the field. He played in all 10 games, recording 28 tackles.
Now the rising sophomore is ready to make a name for himself.
"It meant a lot to contribute so much as a freshman," said Watkins. "Not many people know that we have arguably the best conference in the nation in Division II football. It was a little overwhelming at first, but I enjoyed getting all the playing time I did as a freshman. Some of the players I played against became NFL athletes and professional athletes. So being able to go against that kind of competition is exactly what I wanted from my college experience."
While playing at Emmaus, Watkins received many honors for his play. He was all-conference and a McDonald's All-Star. Even with all of the accolades and many schools to choose from, it was always Lock Haven for Watkins.
"I was young coming out of high school," said Watkins. "I just felt that this institution was the best for me academically and that I could help out a program that hasn't been known as one of the best in recent years."
Head coach John Allen and the Bald Eagles sure must be grateful for Watkins' commitment.
Performance on the football field is secondary to what the staff and players feels is most important.
"Academically I wanted to strive to be as good as I possibly could in the classroom," said Watkins. "All the coaches stress that we make every one of our classes and try to sit in the front of the room."
The environmental science major is keen to abide by those team rules.
Watkins' success transitioning from high school to college as a student-athlete came easier than it might for others.
"It's a lot harder in college," he said. "The coach may give you a couple of new plays every couple of days and you just have to go home, study them and then come back ready to use them the next day. There are so many formations and [it's] much more detail than in high school."
But it doesn't seem to cause Watkins any grief, as he saw plenty of playing time as a freshman defensive back.
Football started back in flags at the age of five or six for Watkins. He has been with the Emmaus organization his whole life. He excelled in a various number of sports including soccer and baseball. In high school, it was football in the fall and track and field in the spring. And if it wasn't for a freak accident where he broke is ankle playing for a travel team, Watkins may have seen some offers for a different sport baseball.
His 5-11 frame sometimes gives him a disadvantage against taller receivers, but his speed makes up for it. That is why Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers is Watkins' favorite pro athlete. The Chiefs are also his favorite team.
"The way he carries himself out on the field is incredible to watch," said Watkins. "I mean I'm not the biggest guy on the field, and neither is he, but he still works hard and demands more of himself and holds his own out there."
There were many plays and games that Watkins experienced as a freshman, but none was bigger and meant more to him than his first game against Millersville.
"The home atmosphere to start off the year was electric," said Watkins. "I just loved the way the university came out to support the team. It was something special."
Watkins hopes for more of the same support as he and his team looks to get in the win column as they open up play on Thursday, August 30 at Fordham University in Bronx, NY.