TULSA — Trey Watts rarely had to deal with comparisons to his father — former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts — while going to high school in Virginia.
And that was just fine with him.
Now, however, as Trey Watts begins his final season back in the Sooner state — as a senior running back for Tulsa — he’s taking the time to fully appreciate the journey that’s seen him rise from former walk-on to one of Conference USA’s best.
The Golden Hurricane finished 11-3 last season and won Conference USA, ending with a win over Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl. Many of the team’s top offensive players return this season, highlighted by Watts.
Watts accounted for 2,215 all-purpose yards last season for Tulsa, including 1,132 yards rushing. He also returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns, and his versatility has third-year coach Bill Blankenship consistently pestering his assistant coaches to make sure Watts is on the field as much as possible.
“I want 22 in the game, because I know he knows what to do and that he’s going to do the right thing,” Blankenship said. “He gets tired ... He can’t play every snap. I just like him in the game.”
His family had moved to Virginia after seventh grade, doing so because of the burgeoning political career of his farther — who had been elected to Congress. The move turned out to be a blessing of sorts for Watts, who enjoyed the relative anonymity .
Watts had no Division-I scholarship offers after a high school career that saw him gain more than 2,000 yards combined rushing and receiving.
It was only after J.C. Watts called his former high school and college friend Blankenship, then an assistant with the Golden Hurricane, that Trey Watts jumped onto Tulsa’s recruiting radar.
Blankenship didn’t have a scholarship at the time to offer Watts, but the running back was OK with that.
“Trey was not a great high school player,” Blankenship said. “He was not a Division-I recruit that people just (thought) would be a no-brainer, but he was a very good high school running back.
“When I looked at the film, I had flashbacks because I saw an older guy with his last name making some of those same moves. I thought, ‘Maybe.”’