Anthony Watts refused to concede.
He simply wouldn’t quit, wouldn’t yield, wouldn’t give up.
It’s just not in Watts’ DNA.
And that’s the only reason the 6-foot-4, 294-pound senior defensive tackle will be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner today with his Marshall University football teammates.
Goodness knows, Watts had every reason to call it quits after suffering a “Lisfranc” foot injury a year and a half ago.
“Basically, the arch of your foot breaks and flattens,” explained Watts. “It happened to my right foot.”
Until then, Watts had spent his collegiate career at Purdue.
“That ended my time at Purdue,” he said. “So, at that point, we were looking at ‘Am I going to be able to play football again? Or, am I going to be able to walk the same again?’ So, this whole past year has been the road to recovery and, just basically, start from square one.”
If it sounds horrific, it’s because it was.
“One of the biggest things,” explained Watts, “is you’ve got to get your mindset ready for it and understanding that your life is completely about to change and nothing is going to be the same. To get to where I had to go, I had to tell myself that I had to have the strongest mindset out of anybody and just grind until I couldn’t grind no more.”
That’s how mentally tough he had to be.
“There were two surgeries,” explained Watts. “The first surgery you get the foot reconstructed and you get the hardware placed in it. But, then, for two months you can’t step on your foot at all. You are basically disabled because that higher foot recovery depends on if you can walk again or if you’ll be able to run again.
“So, I wasn’t able to do anything regular for about two or three months. I was wearing a boot and I was on crutches. It was very rough. It was terrible. And, then, you’ve got to get another procedure to get the hardware removed months later, so that’s another surgery.”
The rest was merely a question of desire, which just happens to be one of Watts’ strongest points.
“I recovered pretty early,” he said. “I wasn’t supposed to be cleared actually until July. But I pushed myself. I was back running in December. I was six months ahead of schedule because I wanted it.”
Watts wanted that one last season. So, what led him to Marshall?
“Coach Huff,” answered Watts quickly. “I was in a position where a lot of people really weren’t comfortable with giving me an opportunity with the injury I had — if I’d ever recover, if I’d even get a shot.
“But Coach Huff called me on the phone and he reassured me that he thought that I was still the same player as I was before. And he wanted to take a chance on me and just be careful with me.
“So, all I needed was for somebody to believe in me. l told him, ‘You give me a helmet and some shoulder pads and I’m going to work my tail off. I don’t need much.’ That’s how I ended up here.”
The rest is history. Watts has accumulated 27 tackles (seven unassisted) with 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one quarterback hurry from his starting defensive tackle spot.
And, now, Watts will enjoy “Senior Day” with his teammates as the Herd hosts Georgia State at noon Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“It’s very bitter sweet,” said Watts. “It was a long time coming. Several years ago, I thought that was my last college game. But I made it to the finish line.”
Indeed, he did.
And Watts did it wearing green and white.