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September 1, 2011

Watts to play where his father starred

TULSA, Okla. -- There's always been a part of Trey Watts that wanted to play a game on Oklahoma's Owen Field.

The son of former Sooners quarterback J.C. Watts frequently attended games as a season-ticket holder when his family lived in Norman. Later on, games became a Saturday TV staple.

Watts will finally get his chance to play on Oklahoma's home field this Saturday night, just not for the top-ranked Sooners. He's expected to start at running back for Tulsa when the teams open their seasons.

"It's a special opportunity to have that chance to go back and play in the stadium that was probably the first college football game you saw," said Watts, who bears a striking resemblance to his father.

Watts lived in Norman through the seventh grade, then moved to Virginia. His father followed his career with the Sooners by being elected to Congress for four terms, and starting his own lobbying and consulting firms.

But there has always been a crimson and cream connection.

"Trey used to come around here as a young guy with his dad, and (I'm) really excited for him. He's a good looking player," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said.

"Obviously we all love J.C. and the family. We just wish him the best. Not so much maybe against us, but overall. It's been fun to watch him."

Watts wasn't all that highly recruited and it came down to another of his father's connections, with coach Bill Blankenship, that brought him to the Golden Hurricane. Instead of taking a scholarship to play at a lower level, Watts decided to walk on for Tulsa - which elevated Blankenship from receivers coach to head coach this season.

"I felt like I wanted to at least try and see because I felt like I could play at the highest level," Watts said.

Watts ended up breaking the starting lineup four times as a freshman. He had 197 yards rushing, 172 yards receiving and three total touchdowns last season.

"There's bloodlines and there's instinct there. His daddy could run a little bit with the ball in his hand," new offensive coordinator Greg Peterson said. "I asked him when I first got here, 'Who's faster, you or your dad?' And he says, 'Most definitely, I am.' I said, 'Do you mean when he was playing or the age that he's at now?'"

J.C. Watts went 22-3 as Oklahoma's starting quarterback from 1978-80, when the Sooners won the Big Eight title and the Orange Bowl in three straight seasons. Other than a few highlights from those bowl games, his son hasn't seen much of Dad's exploits and it's never been forced upon him.

"His dad was a tremendous player and, I'll tell you what, every time J.C. touched the ball it was a touchdown waiting to happen," Peterson said. "And Trey's got some of that ability, too."

Trey Watts said it was only natural for him to get involved in the game. He grew up watching Sooners games on Saturdays and the Dallas Cowboys on Sundays and "I just fell in love with football that way." But the opportunity to follow his father's footsteps in Norman never materialized.

"I wanted to coming out of high school but at the same time I was aware of the recruiting process and just how all that kind of worked," he said. "I knew if that didn't happen that I'd have to just play somewhere else."

Peterson said he had been impressed with Watts' high school footage when he was the offensive coordinator at Northern Colorado and he wasn't sure "what kept him from being a scholarship athlete, but he's a big-time football player; I'm glad he's here for the Hurricane."

"Trey's a very good football player," Peterson said. "He's got tremendous vision, he runs between the tackles well, he's got speed to get out on the edge and he catches the ball well. Really, he's a complete player and I think the final link to him being a good player is that he'll pass protect. So, he's the full package."

And if he can help Tulsa continue its seven-game winning streak that included a win at Notre Dame last season, Sooners fans will have an entirely different way of remembering him.

"Hopefully if I do good things," Trey said, "people will not see me as J.C. Watts' son but as Trey Watts."



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