Bill Hass on the ACC: Seminoles' Dekoda Watson Nears the End of Fulfilling His Dream
Nov. 25, 2009
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – As a youngster, Dekoda Watson didn’t like playing football. But somehow that didn’t stop him from making a promise to his parents that he would earn a scholarship so they wouldn’t have to pay for his education.
Now Watson is in the final phase of his career at Florida State, fulfilling his dream of keeping his promise.
“I played when I was younger but I was not the most athletic thing,” the senior linebacker said. “Scared to hit, scared to be hit. I didn’t start being a decent football player until my high school career.
“That’s the funny thing (about) promising to my mom that I was going to get a scholarship because I wasn’t the most athletic or the smartest in the school, so I don’t know why I made that promise to her.”
He still had some fear about the game until his father talked to him.
“One day my daddy told me that it was going to hurt a lot more to be hit than to deliver a hit,” Watson said. “So one day I just went out there and hit as hard as I could and it didn’t hurt.”
And a defensive player was born. Watson also played running back and tight end in high school in Aiken, S.C., but defensive end is where he attracted the most attention.
At 6-2, 226 pounds, he was switched to linebacker as a Seminole and played as a true freshman, mostly on special teams. He earned a starting berth as a sophomore and has been in the lineup ever since, save for three games missed with injuries as a junior and most of one game missed this season with a groin pull.
“Ability-wise he stacks up pretty good,” said coach Bobby Bowden. “He’s the only senior linebacker that we’ve got that is starting. I’d say he’s played well.”
Watson has two games remaining in his career – this weekend against Florida and then the Seminoles’ bowl game.
This hasn’t been the kind of senior season Watson envisioned. Although bowl eligible for a 28th straight season, Florida State is only 6-5 overall. A win over the top-ranked Gators would provide a lot of balm to soothe the disappointment.
Watson is well aware that it won’t be easy. Florida has beaten the Seminoles five straight years, and in the last two games the combined scores have been 90-27. Still, Watson feels the competitive juices flowing.
“It’s going to be exciting and I know the atmosphere is going to be crazy,” he said. “At the same time we’re going to make the most of it. I feel like we’re headed in the right direction with these last couple of wins. Our defense is stepping up. We’re young and I feel like we’ve finally grown up.”
Bowden said he couldn’t find any chinks in the Gators’ armor. Their defense and kicking game are strong and the offense is led by the irrepressible Tim Tebow.
“Everything offensively is built around Tebow and his threat of running and passing,” Bowden said. “He’s got some backs who can fly and he’s got good receivers and we think his offensive line is the best we’ve seen down there in the last couple of years.
“What you would love is to try not to let them have that big play. Stopping them one down, stopping them two downs, (that) doesn’t mean a doggone thing. You’ve got to stop them three successive downs and that’s what people are having a hard time doing.”
Watson said it comes down to everyone doing what they’re supposed to do on defense.
“The offense is very unique, a lot of motion, a lot of misdirection,” he said. “You can really get confused it you’re not disciplined enough to stay on your assignment and not try to do somebody else’s. If you make one mistake it really costs you. What it really comes down to is for our defense to be disciplined in everything we do.”
And the problems Tebow specifically causes?
“He’s basically the total package, he really can do it all,” Watson said. “If he needs to get out of the pocket and scramble he can do that. He’s not one to try and make you miss or anything, he’s liable to try and run through you. He’s able to throw when he needs to, he’s a smart player overall and we’re really going to have to respect him going in.
“I say respect, not lay down. Know what he’s capable of doing and be disciplined enough to keep him contained and try to lessen his play as the game goes along.”
Watson doesn’t expect to shut down the Gators. The key for the Seminoles, he said, is how they react to Florida’s success.
“Of course, they’re going to make plays – they’re Florida,” he said. “But at the same time, when adversity strikes it doesn’t mean you have to give up. You have to continue to play and put your best foot forward.”
Watson believes the Seminoles have been getting up from adversity all season. One thing that hasn’t been a problem, he said, is the constant speculation about the status of whether Bowden will return for one more season.
“There’s always going to be talk but I don’t feel we ever got distracted by that,” Watson said. “For coach Bowden to say ‘don’t worry about that, I’ve been through this before’ and seeing that he’s comfortable with the situation has made us comfortable. It really didn’t have any effect.”
And Watson wouldn’t trade his experience playing under Bowden, plus retiring defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, for anything else.
“It’s been a great journey,” Watson said. “I’ve learned a lot from that man, I really respect him. I wouldn’t want to play under anybody else than him. Not only him, but Mickey Andrews, and that’s saying a lot.”
The journey almost didn’t happen. Watson was always a Florida State fan but the Seminoles were the last school to offer him a scholarship. Once they made their pitch, he said, he crossed every other team off his list.
His impact was felt his first season when he blocked a kick that another player scooped up for the go-ahead touchdown in the Emerald Bowl. Watson was in on 50 tackles as a sophomore, 46 more as a junior and 52 so far this season.
Along the way he has made 28½ tackles for loss, including 9½ sacks, returned a fumble for a touchdown and an interception for a TD.
By any account, Watson has made good on his promise.
“I’m just living my dream right now and keeping my promise to my parents, showing them it wasn’t just me talking,” he said. “I promised them a long time ago that I was going to get a scholarship and they weren’t going to have to pay for my school and one day I was going to pay them back for everything they have done. I’m going to stick to it and keep striving for my goal.”
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March, 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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