No matter Watt, this Viking is a hot commodity
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – As a defensive end, Tahjai Watt knows all about pursuit. But this summer, instead of being the tracker, he is being tracked.
Watt, a senior at North Mecklenburg High, is being recruited by college football and basketball programs. Where to go? What sport to pick?
His summer was a fast-paced blend of football workouts, AAU basketball games, and attending football camps and recruiting chats. A few times, Watt would miss a North Mecklenburg football workout because he was practicing with the basketball team. And vice versa.
“It’s pretty strenuous,” Watt said, laughing. “It takes a lot of energy and time for me. I’m used to it now, but I barely had a summer to relax and kick with my friends.
“That’s been a challenge, but being about to play at college (camps) and in front of college coaches is something you can’t really beat. My friends will be there, hopefully, forever. My friends know what I go through, so it’s not like I’m trying to stay away from those guys.”
Watt is a 6-foot-5, 195-pounder who will play defensive end and wide receiver. In basketball, he’s a power forward. Football coach Brad Baker said he’d also be an integral part of the Vikings special teams.
“He might not come off the field,” Baker said.
Watt didn’t need much time to adjust to football physically. He went to summer camps at Duke, Wake Forest, Appalachian State and an N.C. Elite camp. His AAU basketball team (Team Charlotte) played in a tournament in Florida from July 20-30, often with two or three games daily.
Recruiting was mixed in. Watt said the main football interest has come from Wake Forest and Ball State. North Carolina, which Watt said would be his dream school, is interested but wants to see his first few games this season.
Radford, Elon and Colgate are the most-interested basketball teams pursuing Watt. Last week, he said North Meck basketball coach Duane Lewis told him Virginia Military Institute jumped into the mix.
“Right now, it looks like it will be football,” Watt said. “I don’t have a problem playing both sports, but I don’t know if I want to. Again, it’s strenuous now, so it’d be real bad in college. I want to go somewhere where I can play my sport, expand my craft and have a little college life, too. I’ll probably commit for one sport, but I don’t know.”
Baker’s in his first season as coach after being an assistant at Mooresville High, which is in the same conference.
“When we played North last year, Tahjai got kicked out of the game,” Baker said. “When I took the job, I thought he might be trouble but it’s the complete opposite. He gives great effort and works hard. Hit it off right away.”
Baker said he’s cool with “sharing” Watt and a few other Vikings who play basketball. He commended Lewis and the players for communicating schedules.
The business at hand is trying to erase memories of last season’s 1-10 record under veteran coach Mike Bradley, who retired following the season.
“Life’s going to be tough, and sometimes you have to push through,” Watt said. “You’ll always have ups and downs, and last year was probably the lowest we could get. I’m not going to accept again what we went through last year. This year, with a new coach, the team’s a lot more focused.
“Coach Baker’s younger, so we’re all more enthused and more into it. We had a 24-hour camp (at school) and that was a good bonding period. We’ve just got more chemistry. Coaches are more interactive all around. I love (former) coach Bradley, he’s my guy. But you can see the difference in where this program’s going now.”