NO.tulsatulane.111421_13.jpg

Tulane Green Wave wide receiver Phat Watts (3) scores a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Yulman Stadium on Nov. 13, 2021.

Phat Watts’ reinstatement to the Tulane football team this offseason was lost amid the news of all the high-profile wide receiver transfer additions under new coach Jon Sumrall.

Despite the depth at his position, Watts found a way to get noticed quickly this spring. Through six practices, he has made as many plays as almost anyone on the roster as he tries to complete an unlikely comeback story.

Although he was productive in his first and second years under former coach Willie Fritz, his last catch in a game came against Alcorn State on Sept. 10, 2022, when he suffered a noncontact torn anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

He last played in a game on kick coverage against Southern Miss on Sept. 16. Fritz dismissed him from the team the following week after he missed a practice in apparent frustration with his role.

“It was really tough,” Watts said of his dismissal. “It was devastating. I wanted to be out there with the guys, but everything happens for a reason. It was God’s plan.”

At first, Watts thought he might be allowed back. When he realized it was not going to happen, he entered the transfer portal in October, but he never left school and kept going to classes.

His second chance came in January after he talked with Sumrall.

“I said, 'Look, here’s the deal,' ” Sumrall said. “ 'This is essentially a spring tryout. If you do great, great. If not, it’s probably time to go do something else.' ”

His first three months back could not have gone better. Watts, whose twin brother Duece made the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad last season after the duo spent three years together at Tulane, has followed a strong offseason with six good practices in spring drills.

“I really have been impressed with his leadership, his intangibles, the type of teammates he is,” Sumrall said. “I’m encouraged with what I’ve seen from him to date.”

Consistency will be the key. While catching 17 passes for 217 yards in 2020 and 18 passes for 224 yards in 2021, Watts exhibited big-play ability along with the tendency for boneheaded mistakes. His ACL injury presented a whole new set of challenges, and he admits regaining his edge was hard.

He did not feel totally right until after last season.

“It was about getting that confidence back and trusting myself,” he said. “It’s amazing. The training staff did a great job. I’m just happy to be out there with the guys and just doing what I love.”

He certainly has turned some heads. When Michael Pratt needed an extra receiver to throw to during pro day last week, Watts joined NFL hopefuls Jha’Quan Jackson and Lawrence Keys running routes and hauled in a 60-yard pass on the fly.?

“He’s looked awesome,” said Pratt, who also has attended a few spring practices. “He’s been through some adversity, but now he’s back. I’m super thankful he came out and helped me out.”

The Tulane receiver room is crowded. The headliners are former USC star Mario Williams, holdover Yulkeith Brown and Alabama transfer Shazz Preston.

Watts is one of eight other scholarship wideouts in spring drills, but he hardly has settled into the background.

“Phat’s a great player,” said quarterback Ty Thompson, a transfer from Oregon. “He’s explosive off the ball. He’s all over the field and knows what he’s doing. He might be overlooked by some just because of the people who came in, but he’s very talented and very knowledgeable.”

Duece Watts had highs of 31 catches in 2020 and 564 yards with seven touchdowns in 2022. If all goes as his twin hopes, those might be Phat numbers in 2024.

“It would be a dream come true,” he said. “Being here with my brother and then him going on to his next step, I feel my time is now.”

Lagniappe

Thompson, who has been cleared for all drills coming off minor foot surgery, shared reps on first-team unit in Tuesday’s practice with Kai Horton and Darian Mensah. … Sumrall said Tulane would have its first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday morning, running somewhere between 50 to 75 plays. … Back from spring break, the Wave practiced in full pads for its first workout in 12 days.

Tags