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HE MAKES QUICK WORK OF QBS; SPEEDY PARACLETE DEFENDER WATTS CARRIES ON FAMILY'S FOOTBALL TRADITION.

Byline: Chris Cocoles Daily News Staff Writer

Before he could even walk, Robert Watts used to terrorize his mother Bridget and father Joe by climbing anything around the house.

Now as a Paraclete High junior linebacker/defensive end, Watts terrorizes opposing quarterbacks while garnering the nickname ``Raptor.''

``He's so quick,'' Spirits coach Steve Hagerty said of Watts, a defensive stalwart on a team seeking a second straight Southern Section title when it meets Kilpatrick tonight.

``When he first gets started he's fast, but then he takes those last couple steps he picks up the speed and can get to the quarterback in a flash. He has great closing speed.''

Speed is Watts' biggest asset. A close second might be the football pedigree, which begins with his dad Joe, now Antelope Valley College's defensive backs coach and Paraclete's head coach from 1979-86.

``It seems like someone was always putting a football in his hands. He had little tiny footballs in his crib,'' Joe Watts said. ``I always wanted him to play football, but his mother and I tried to let him make up his own mind.''

If there ever were any doubts he wouldn't pursue football, the season Robert Watts spent on the chain gang at AVC while his father coached the Marauders got his blood flowing.

``I picked up so much about my position just watching the games,'' said Watts, who was a Paraclete freshman when he roamed the Marauder Stadium sidelines. ``I learned I'd have to go out there and play tough. And in college it was a big difference compared to high school football.''

But Robert Watts, now possessing a prototypical 6-foot-3 defender's frame and superior speed to boot, didn't make much of an impression physically three years ago.

``I don't think he was even 6 feet tall then. He was a little chubby and he just looked awkward,'' Hagerty said. ``He was almost clumsy.''

As a sophomore on the JV team, Watts grew both in height and in stature. Promoted to the varsity team for the playoffs, Watts made a start at linebacker for the eventual Division XI champions in a second-round victory at Big Bear.

He made a name for himself more during practices, though, disrupting the offensive workouts with his ability to out-quick offensive linemen.

``(Departed senior standout) Rob McShea was at left tackle and was blocking him, and Robert kept getting into the backfield,'' Hagerty said. ``He was just too quick, and he was making it difficult to run the plays so I finally said `Could somebody block this sophomore kid, please?'

``That's when we knew that Robert was a defensive tackle. . . . I thought he had the ability and the personality to play at the next level.''

Joe Watts has always done his best to strictly be a dad to Robert rather than treat him like one of his own Marauders. But when asked to evaluate him from a coach's standpoint, the response was similar to Hagerty's.

``He has very good speed and has good instincts for the ball,'' Joe Watts said. ``I can see how well he pursues the ball and gets in on plays. . . . He needs to hit the weight room.''

All the speed aside, Watts tips the scales at just about 195 pounds, not quite heavy enough to complement his 6-3 figure.

UCLA has expressed some interest in the junior, who looks at this offseason as the most important of his budding career.

``I really need to get bigger. I have been more intense in the weight room and I just plan on letting it go in the offseason,'' he said. ``This is the time I need to step it up.''

And there is always the alternative that has never happened during Robert's football career: play for his father.

``I've always tried to let his coaches be his coach while I could always act as his dad,'' said Joe Watts, who has two more offsprings, 13-year-old Andrew and 6-year-old Benjamin, carrying on the family's football tradition.

``It would be great to coach my son, but I really would rather see him get a scholarship.''

Of course, Robert Watts is seeking a four-year institution, too, but it's an intriguing possibility.

``If I didn't go somewhere else, it would be fun to be (at AVC) as a player,'' Robert Watts said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 12, 1998
Words:718
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