Sept. 8, 2002
By John Martin – Kerry Watkins returns to the scene of the crime Saturday when Georgia Tech (2-0) heads to Clemson (1-1) for a 12 noon, nationally-televised (ESPN) match-up with the Tigers.
Two years ago, the wide receiver stole a win from fourth-ranked and undefeated Clemson with a diving, one-handed touchdown catch with seven seconds left in the game. The score, which came on a 16-yard pass from George Godsey, was the game-winner in a 31-28 Tech victory.
Despite citing that catch as one of his most memorable moments at Tech, the LaPlace, La., native doesn’t dwell on his moment of glory.
“I don’t really think about it,” said Watkins, a redshirt senior. “That was something that happened two years ago. I’ve played two seasons since then, and if I keep thinking about that catch it would be hard to move forward.”
Watkins has certainly moved forward and become one of the top wideouts in Tech history. He has a knack for finding the end zone, with 18 scores on 107 career grabs. His touchdown total ranks second on the Tech career list, trailing only former teammate and current Minnesota Viking Kelly Campbell. Watkins also ranks seventh on Tech’s career receptions list and fourth on the career receiving yardage chart with 1,789 yards.
Since “The Catch”, Watkins has hauled in 59 aerials and scored seven times.
This season, Watkins has been a huge part of Tech’s 2-0 start. He leads the team with seven catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. In Saturday’s 31-14 win at Connecticut, he hauled in four catches for 89 yards. Watkins tallied three grabs for 70 yards and a score in the season-opening win over Vanderbilt.
Despite his early season success, he sees some areas for improvement.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing, but it can always be better,” said Watkins. “There are some things I can do to improve my game. I think I’ve been blocking pretty well, but I still can get better. I miss a few blocks here and there.”
But Watkins and his offensive mates have not missed much, as the Jackets have put up 76 points in their first two outings. A large part of this success has been the play of Tech’s extremely deep group of receivers.
Joining Watkins, classmate Will Glover and junior Jonathan Smith are exciting youngsters LeKeldrick Bridges, Mark Logan and Levon Thomas. Add to this group a healthy Nate Curry, who should return in a couple of weeks, and opposing defenses beware.
“I think it gives us a great advantage,” said Watkins about the depth at his position. “We have a lot of opportunities to go one-on-one. Teams have to play us straight up. They can’t double up on anyone, because all of our receivers are equally talented. Any one of us can hurt you at any moment.”
With loads of experience under their belts, Watkins and Glover have become the leaders of this group and have offered plenty of advice to their younger teammates. “We’ve both been there for them whenever they’ve needed something,” said Watkins, who states being a good leader as one of his goals for this season.
Watkins also wants to lead by example, showing his teammates that he is willing to do just about anything to help this team succeed.
“If that means me playing on scout team to help the defense to help us to go out and win then I’ll do that,” Watkins added.
In addition to his standout play on the field, it is this type of attitude that Watkins brings to the table. After this season, he would like to take this work ethic to the NFL.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Watkins. “I would love to get the opportunity to go out and play at the next level and make the best of it. I really believe I have the talent to play there.”
If he has any questions about the rigors of NFL life, Watkins can turn to former teammates Campbell and Joe Burns, who recently made the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. Seeing his pals do well has to be promising for Watkins.
“I can use that as encouragement, but I would not have doubted myself if they hadn’t made it,” said Watkins.
But Watkins’ professional dreams can wait until after this season. In the meantime, he plans to cherish his final season on The Flats.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” said Watkins. “We enjoy going out to play.”