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Watts turns up the voltage
Senior LB leads Devils into homecoming with ARC
Statesboro linebacker Weldon Watts makes sure Wayne County's Derrish Pittman has no shot at catching a screen pass during a game earlier this season. Watts will lead the Blue Devils against the Academy of Richmond County on homecoming Friday night at 7:30 p.m. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Statesboro linebacker Weldon Watts has become a leader on and off the field for the Blue Devils. With 521⁄2 tackles, four interceptions, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery, Watts has emerged as an anchor for an SHS defense that week-by-week is only getting stronger.
    But the road to success hasn’t been easy for Watts. The senior missed the entire 2005 season and is just now starting to get to a place he might have reached a long time ago if it wasn’t for a freak accident his sophomore year.

Four days
    As Watts tells the story, his eyes kind of lower and his mind drifts to a time that almost ended his days as a football player.
    The afternoon before the first day of school, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2005, Watts and a buddy decided to take the care out for some fun. Somehow, Watts ended up sitting on the top the car. When his buddy made a sharp turn, Watts came flying off.
    Four days later, Watts was still in the hospital with a severe concussion. His season was over before it ever began.    
    “It was real tough,” he said. “Everytime someone made a tackle I wanted to be out there, helping my teammates.”
    Statesboro would advance to — and win — the Class AAAA state championship later that year.

Making it back
    “It taught me to be more mature,” said Watts of his struggle to get back on the playing field. “I just had to work hard to get back on the field and help my teammates. I just had to get stronger and faster.”
    Watts has done just that, becoming Statesboro’s top linebacker.
    “He’s a gifted athlete,” said defensive coordinator Charlie Fales. “Skill wise he’s got very good speed, he’s strong — doesn’t mind hitting. He’s really begun to work and really trying to get better. The last couple or three weeks he’s gotten better each week and we hope he carries that on through the coming weeks.”
    At 6-foot-1, 197 pounds, Watts leads the teams with four picks, something he’ll gladly let you know. The first came in a 35-6 win over Wayne County. A week later he snagged two and took one in for a touchdown at Lakeside. He added the fourth last week at Evans.

    On Sept. 28, at Lakeside High School, Watts almost single handedly stopped the Panthers’ passing game. His interception return for a touchdown was the demorilizing blow for an LHS squad hoping to spring the upset.
    After the game, a member of the Lakeside coaching staff grabbed Watts and told him point blank what he tought of the senior linebacker.
    “After every tackle I help somebody up,” said Watts. “After every tackle, I say, ‘good job, or good run’, and (the LHS coach) respected me for that. It made me feel real good. Even though I was hitting them really hard, after the game he came up to me and told me good job and encouraged me on.”

Watts all these picks about?
    Fales contributed Watts’ interception total to being in the right place at the right time.
    “He’s seeing the passing game a lot better,” said Fales. “He’s begun to understand how to get himself in the right place at the right time a little more often.”
    Although Watts isn’t complaining about the number of times the ball has found his hands on defense, there’s something else he enjoys more on the gridiron.
    “(I’d rather have) that big hit,” he said. “It feels really good. After you hit ‘em hard, the feeling gets there. It makes you feel hyped — crunk.”
Being a leader
    Is the senior a leader for this team?
    “Yes I am,” he said, borderline insulted by the question. “I believe so because everybody looks up to me. I try to do my work in school and then on the field I try to push them and do what I’m supposed to do.”
    Added Fales: “He’s not a real vocal person. But he’s started to come along and lead a little but more by example.”
    Watts and the Blue Devils (5-1, 4-1) host the Academy of Richmond County (0-6, 0-5) tonight at 7:30 p.m. for homecoming.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.