Jordan Watkins had an interesting recruiting journey: He grew up a Georgia Tech fan, listed UGA as a co-finalist, and ended up signing with Stanford.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive tackle from Woodward Academy will report to Stanford on June 21. He reflected on his recruiting journey with the AJC:
What was the most creative thing a college did to get your attention? “I remember the first day I ever got a hand-written letter from Georgia Tech. Pretty much everyone on the defensive staff, along with Coach [Paul] Johnson, sent a hand-written letter and that was pretty neat.”
UGA was your runner-up. What could they have done better? “I think the only thing they could’ve done better was to keep me away from Stanford because there was definitely nothing that was a knock against Georgia. When I went on my visit to Stanford last July, I fell in love with everything about the place. I tried to delay the whole decision-making process until after football season, but I pretty much knew after that visit that Stanford was No. 1 [and committed in September].”
What was the biggest rumor about you that wasn’t true? “It wasn’t necessarily a rumor. But I think a lot of people thought the main reason I chose Stanford over Georgia was because Coach [Mark] Richt was on the hot seat – and that wasn’t the case at all. And I apologize if there was anything I said if I made that appear to be so. It was really just because I had fallen in love with Stanford.”
Which coach was hardest to inform you were signing with Stanford? “Coach Richt. I called him that morning before I committed and told him. I thanked him for everything he did for me recruiting-wise. That was the hardest call because they had been in there with me for so long and it was pretty close between Stanford and Georgia. And the fact is: If Stanford hadn’t recruited me, I’d be a Bulldog now. I guess that’s what made it so hard.”
What was the funniest thing that happened on a recruiting trip? “At the University of Miami, they were showing us around the school and the assistant coaches started talking about who can still dunk and who can’t. One of them got a little medicine ball and went to the gym. He tried to dunk and I got a kick out of it. He didn’t get the dunk down.”
Was the your biggest secret during the recruiting process? “For the longest time, people didn’t know how much I didn’t really like Georgia [at the beginning]. Early on, I was a huge Georgia Tech fan. I remember I saw [UGA recruiting coordinator] Rodney Garner at our practice and I was like ‘Georgia is here, but there’s no way I’m going to go there.’ But the more I really watched Georgia and talked to the coaches, I actually loved it … Even all of my friends were teasing me up [to when I announced], saying ‘There’s no way you’ll go to Georgia, you’ve been a Georgia Tech fan too long.’ I surprised a lot of people that knew me with how interested I was in Georgia.”
Which college disappointed you the most? “I guess it was Florida [telling me I didn’t have a scholarship offer any longer]. But with all these schools all over the country, I’m sure they have a decent amount of players they offer at each position just in case this player goes here and that person goes there. I guess in my case, somebody said they wanted to go to the University of Florida before I did, so they got that spot. No hard feelings for Florida. I still wish them the best … I don’t know if I can say this was a disappointment, but USC sent me a letter and gave me a number to call. I called the coach and told him who I was and where I was from. The first thing he said was ‘Are you a coach or a player?’ I was thinking ‘OK.’ I thought that was interesting.”
Did any other school say anything wrong to turn you off? “Not really, but I would have to say I was really skeptical about any school that was under NCAA allegations or had been hit with something. I remember thinking about Auburn with the Cam Newton rumors. I was like ‘Auburn hasn’t really been found guilty of anything with Cam, and there’s a good chance they may not. But what if they do? Then that’s going to affect me when I’m there.’ That kind of affected my decision with Auburn but it wasn’t the whole thing. It was kind of like schools that were facing allegations, places like Ohio State and Miami … if I am really doubting and I don’t know what’s going to happen, then I might as well take them off my list.”
Which non-Stanford coach was the nicest? “That was almost have to be a tie, and it’s almost funny that these two would be tied together – Georgia and Georgia Tech with Coach Richt and Coach Johnson. I remember when we called Coach Johnson and told him how grateful I was to be recruited by them. The main reason I didn’t go there is because they didn’t have journalism. He understood. Of course, he was disappointed. He let me know that if anything changed, please feel free to call. You know, calling a head coach and telling them you’re no longer interested in their school was pretty nerve-wracking for me. Coach Richt was cool about it, too. I’m pretty sure he was disappointed but he didn’t let me see it. He said pretty much said the same things as Coach Johnson, to call if anything changed and wished me luck. Later, Coach Richt was the guest speaker at the Macon Touchdown Club when I was receiving an award. He was smiling at me, he shook my hand and we had a little small talk. It was great to see that.”
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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