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Deiontae Watts had to step away from the game of football at Plano East High School in Plano, Texas. This was for good reason. Off the field, academically, his grades weren’t where they needed to be and his mother decided it was time for him to step away from the team to get them in order.

“The toughest thing I’ve ever overcome would be me having to quit football to bring my grades up and I had to leave the team. That really put a hurt on me because I didn’t really feel like doing that and it was the best thing for me,” Watts said.

Plano East High’s defensive line coach Nathan Collins made it his mission to get Deiontae Watts back on the team.

“He had a good freshman year on JV and that spring in between freshman and sophomore year, he was a varsity starter. …He struggled with grades there early on as an underclassman and his mom pulled him out of football his sophomore year. The rest of the season, the winter, spring, the summer and maybe a third of the way into this past season, his junior year, it was all about getting him back,” Collins said. “Home visits, calls, text messages, I mean just a ton of work and his mom finally let him come back. They struggled financially a little bit so I think for the family it was logical. Coach is saying you have an opportunity, let’s let you go play.”

Deiontae Watts had a relationship with coach Collins thanks to his brother Corey Watts who also played high school football at Plano East. Unfortunately, a series of non-football related medical issues prevented him from continuing a football career in college and beyond.

Collins describes Deionte Watts as rapper Eminem’s character, Jimmy “B-Rabbit,” Smith in “8 Mile,” where like Smith, people would tell Deiontae Watts he’s great at this or that and he’s going to do great things in his future. Both guys always remained humble despite the accolades and praise. Collins said it didn’t really click for Watts until he was an upperclassman. He got more and more attention and also was sitting in front of Oklahoma Sooner’s football coach Bob Stoops and other coaches of big name programs.

From Watts’ perspective, he knew he could make something happen with football when he made a big play in his first varsity football game.

“It was probably my first varsity game. When coach Collins put me in he was like ‘let’s see what you got,’ and I was able to handle it. I went into the game and dominated the offensive line and in that first varsity game, I made a tackle while getting double teamed and coach was like ‘do you realize I have never seen anyone do that before?’ That’s when I realized I could play this game,” Watts said.

The biggest thing for Watts now is academics. For the future, grades cannot be an issue if he wants to see playing time and stay on the field for whichever football program he decides to play for.

The six-foot-three, 302 pound, Plano, Texas native, has 17 total offers from Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, UCLA, USC, Ole Miss and more. According to the 247Sports Composite, he is a top-50 player in Texas and top-25 defensive tackle in the 2017 recruiting class. For the 2015 season, in five games, he recorded 17 tackles, five sacks and 11 quarterback pressures. See his highlight film here.

“Texas A&M, Oklahoma, USC, Nebraska and there are some other ones I’m going to start throwing in there but those are the main ones that I have figured out,” Watts said about the schools he has high interest in right now.

He said that the recruiting process has been good for him so far and he’s been talking with Alabama to see if he can pick up a scholarship offer from them.

He plans to make his commitment decision sometime before National Signing Day (February 1, 2017). He still has official visits to take.

“Against the running game and pressuring quarterbacks. I feel like I’m pretty good at stopping the run because I feel like if I get a hold of you, you’re kind of done,” Watts said about what he’s best at doing on the field.

“I truly believe his upside, he hasn’t even hit that yet. The video you see out there right now, you have to keep in mind that that’s fresh off the couch. No summer workouts, no spring ball, no winter offseason,” Collins said. “He hadn’t touched a weight since he left as a sophomore so he’s just raw, playing really tall at times but this is his first offseason since [the time] in between his freshman and sophomore year. His tape of his senior year is going to be ridiculous. He’s got like 18 offers now, he’ll be a 40 offer kid by the time he’s done here.”