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November 17, 2011
People often are surprised by the agility Forest City (N.C.) Chase defensive tackle Carlos Watkins displays on the football field, especially when the 288-pounder lines up at wide receiver, something he did often this fall.
But not Jonathan Bullard.
A close friend of Watkins who plays for nearby Shelby Crest, Bullard knows what Watkins is capable of because for three years they were AAU basketball teammates.
"He can get up and down the court pretty good," Bullard said. "He's a very athletic guy. I think it's natural."
On Jan. 7, Watkins and Bullard will again be playing on the same team, this time as members of the East squad at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio. On Thursday, the bowl's selection tour stopped by Chase to officially invite Watkins to the game and present him with his game jersey. Bullard got his jersey a day earlier.
"It's going to be cool to play with him," Watkins said.
For Watkins, a four-star Clemson Tigers commit, being chosen to play in the Army All-American Bowl was the proverbial dream come true.
"It's truly a blessing," he said. "A lot of kids don't get this opportunity. I was blessed to get this chance. I'm going to take advantage of it. It means a great deal to me. In my speech I gave today I said it was really good to play for the people who fight for the country every day. It's an honor."
Watkins vividly remembers the day earlier this year when he was told about his Army All-American Bowl invite.
"I was over at my best friend's house, and my coach called," Watkins said. "When he told me I got an official invite, man I almost passed out. I had to calm myself down. It was one of my goals. I can't remember what grade I was in but I remember watching the game with my dad and my brother. I told them I'll play in that game someday."
Watkins arrived at Chase as a 6-foot-2, 220-pound freshman, and he became a varsity starter the following year. Today, the 6-4 standout is the country's No. 86 overall prospect, No. 9 defensive tackle and No. 4 recruit in North Carolina.
For Watkins, the upcoming trip to San Antonio will provide him with a major test, but one he welcomes.
"That's the thing, the good thing is it's a week to see how good I really am, to see what I need to work on," Watkins said. "I think you have to play the best in order to be the best.
Playing with Bullard, who unlike Watkins has yet to pick a school, is the bonus.
"Hopefully," Watkins said, "he'll come to Clemson and we'll play together for four years."