On Monday, several invites went out for the 2012 Rising Seniors Georgia Junior Bowl. Founded by former NFL players Joe Burns and Izell Reese, the unique program selects 90 of the top juniors in Georgia for a week of activities that help to educate the prospective student athletes on academics, recruiting and life.
Rising Seniors culminates in the Georgia Junior Bowl, an all-star game that pits the West and East teams for state bragging rights. Last year’s game was a star-studded affair, with nine ESPN 150 prospects, 17 ESPN prospects, and 70 that hold FBS offers at this time. One of the first invites to go out was to a prospect that has already accrued his share of recruiting accolades.
Quarterback DeShaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) has put up some video-game-like numbers in the past two seasons. As a freshman, he passed for 2,100 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 500 yards and five scores. As a junior, he was 29-of-337 for 3,221 yards with 41 touchdowns, and rushed 156 times for 1,073 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Several schools have offered the 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior, who has been committed to Clemson since February. Watson also accepted a rare early invite to the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. The latest news still had him amped this week.
“I am very excited to be in the Rising Seniors program” Watson said. “I watched the game last year on ESPN3.com, and I worked hard to try and get into it, and when I got the news today I was very excited.”
This year Rising Seniors is sending out the invites in a different way, with alumni from the previous year making the call to invite the next class of standouts from across Georgia. Watson got the news from a breakout performer from last year’s game.
“Joshua Dobbs (Alpharetta, Ga./Alpharetta) called me to tell me I was invited,” Watson said. “He told me to keep working hard, that Rising Seniors would be a great experience, and to keep my head straight, stay focused and to make sure I stay on the books.”
Watson camped at Auburn, Clemson, Georgia and Georgia Tech this summer, and seemed to enjoy his time at each program.
First up was a trip to the Plains.
“Auburn gave me a chance to work out with some of the best prospects in the Southeast and I was able to learn a lot from their coaches that I can take back to my school,” Watson said.
Being a Clemson commitment, Watson was sure to keep the coaching staff informed as to where things stand in his recruitment.
“I talk to Coach (Chad) Morris and Coach (Dabo) Swinney every week and I tell them I am still committed, but that I am going to check out other places because I have two more years and stuff happens and a lot could change in the college football landscape,” Watson said. “It would take a lot to make me change my decision, but I am just going to go where my heart takes me, so if I do make a change I would let them know a couple weeks before so they can have a backup plan.”
One of the in-state programs has already offered Watson and he was not going to turn down a chance to check out the school.
“Georgia Tech called and invited me up, so if any school invites me I am going to take the visit,” Watson said. “It was great meeting the coaches, spending time in downtown Atlanta and seeing how I would fit in that offense.”
The other local college has not, but he is still maintaining his interest in the nearby school.
“It was really nice being able to camp at Georgia and it was actually my first time seeing the stadium and facilities,” Watson said. “Getting to talk with Mark Richt and some of the coaches was a great experience.”
If a scholarship does come, the Bulldogs could be a major contender for the prolific passer.
“I have been telling my head coach and the recruiting coach at my school that if Georgia offers they will be one of my top five schools,” Watson said. “They are right up the street from my hometown and I have much love for Georgia. If they do not offer I will be fine but it would be a great thing if they did because it is very close to home.”
Watson has recently received several offers from schools he wants to check out this fall. One of them is from the Seminoles.
“It meant a lot to get an offer from FSU,” Watson said. “I have been keeping up with their recruiting lately and they have been bringing in some big time players. Last year they got one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in Jameis Winston. I told Coach (Dameyune) Craig I am going to come down for a game to check out the city, the campus and just learn more about FSU. I am going to be very interested in them. They told me they really want me to come for the Clemson game, so I have to check my schedule and see if I can get it worked out.”
Other than Clemson, Watson said, Auburn, Florida, FSU, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC and Vanderbilt stick out. His family is going through the process with him and, whatever his choice, they plan to be there for him.
“My family is having fun with me and they enjoy seeing places they have never seen before,” Watson said. “They have told me that wherever I feel happy at and comfortable with going to for the next four years that they would stick with me and support my decision.”