It’s not long into an interview with Watts Dantzler before you realize you’re dealing with a different sort of college football prospect.
You’re thinking that after you hear how he’s sorting through his snowballing recruiting process. But then you’re sure of it when you get around to asking him if he’s involved in any spring sports such as track or baseball.
“I’m actually playing tennis right now,” said the 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive lineman from Dalton. “I enjoy it and . . .”
It takes a second for that comment to resonate. So I interrupt him make sure I’ve heard him correctly.
“Tennis?” I ask, incredulous. “Like on the varsity tennis team?”
“Well, I’m on the JV right now,” Dantzler says. “I haven’t qualified for varsity just yet. But I’m trying.”
Dantzler explains that he’s not a lifelong netter or anything. He just grew bored a while ago as a thrower in track and decided to take up a new sport while staying active in the spring.
Plus, he insists, it has practical applications for his burgeoning football career.
“It’s helping me out with my footwork,” says Dantzler, who averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds on the Catamounts’ basketball team. “It’s an easy sport to play. We only practice about an hour a day, so I can work out real hard [in the weightroom] and not worry about being too tired for tennis.”
So much for convention. But then there is very little conventional about Dantzler.
He is at once a deliberate thinker and a free spirit. And he’s utilizing both traits to negotiate the sometimes overwhelming recruiting process.
For instance, people tend to think he’s a lock to sign with Georgia seeing how his late father, Danny Dantzler, is a Bulldog letterman and met Watts’ mother at UGA. Not necessarily.
Dantzler does indeed “love Georgia” (his words) and includes the Dogs on his list of favorites. But he vowed long ago to approach his recruitment with an open mind and a blank slate.
“I’ve tried to visit as many places as I can,” said Dantzler, who estimates he has been on at least 30 unofficial visits the last two years. “Colleges spend so much money recruiting me. Tons of colleges send me tons of mail and invite me to stuff. So I try to get out and visit everywhere at least once or twice to get a good grasp of what that college has to offer and what not.”
Dantzler’s latest stop was at Alabama this past weekend. He’ll spend his spring break on Tobacco Road touring Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest.
It’s his intention to see the campus of every team that offers him a scholarship. He has 18 tenders so far. To date he’s been on about 12 different campuses.
“It really has been an enjoyable process visiting all those places,” he said. “Not many people have that opportunity. It’s just been a blessing to go through this whole thing. I’m just really thankful for all the things the Lord has blessed me with.”
One can see evidence of those blessings displayed in tangible form in Dantzler’s bedroom in Dalton.
“My sophomore year one of my good friends, Taylor [Dunn], he was like ‘why don’t you put up all your letters up in your room?’ So we went and bought some thumbtacks and started putting them up,” Dantzler said. “I probably got 40 or 50 letters my sophomore year. So that filled up a nice little section on my wall. This year I’ve probably gotten 1,500 or 2,000 letters. So now all my walls in my room are covered, my ceiling is covered with letters.”
In the middle of all that chaos is a bulletin board. There Dantzler has tacked up the envelopes of the schools he’s most serious about considering. When he gets an official scholarship offer, that envelope gets a black check in permanent marker.
Dantzler recently designated a top five of Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. But he said that was a tentative list at best.
“None of those written in stone,” he said.
Besides, new envelopes keep coming. Dantzler said Notre Dame recently offered and he expects Southern Cal will any day now.
Trips to South Bend and Los Angeles surely will follow, tennis schedule allowing of course.