By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — There were several common themes expressed by the six Watauga High School student-athletes recognized on March 10 for their commitment to play football at the college level. Some thanked God, but all expressed appreciation for their parents and family members, their coaches, the team athletic trainers, their teammates, and the High Country area community members who supported the team during the young men’s participation at Watauga.
But one number shared by head coach Ryan Habich during his introductory remarks stood out — and deservedly drew the most raucous applause from the parents, teachers, friends and fellow students packing the north grandstands in Lentz-Eggers Gym: 4.17.
That was the aggregated GPA of all six athletes combined, 4.17.
In offering his introductory observations, Habich said he appreciated all of the great contributions to the Watauga football team from the guys as football players, “…but they are even better young men.”
Habich added, “As they did in high school, we know these players will continue to represent Watauga County in a positive way.”
Habich called each player to the podium to speak, but he provided some highlights for each one before they took to the microphone.
“Will has committed to Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) to play running back. Will was a two-year starter at running back and cornerback and was a two-time, First Team all-Northwestern Conference selection. This year, Will had a major role not only on offense but was also a starter at the corner on defense. On offense, Will rushed for 1,323 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. On defense, Will had 24 total tackles, 1 sack, 3 pass breakups, and one interception. We are excited about Will’s future at Wheaton College.”
“Carlton has committed to East Tennessee State University to play linebacker and strong safety. Carlton was a 3-year starter at multiple positions on offense and defense. He was a 3-time all-Conference player. He was our starting QB his sophomore year and helped lead the team to a conference championship during the COVID-19 season. This year, as a senior on defense he had 54 total tackles, two tackles for loss, 3 pass breakups, and four interceptions. On offense, Carlton rushed for 186 yards and two TDs, and had two pass receptions for 42 yards and one TD. We are excited about Carlton’s future at ETSU.”
“Isaiah has committed to North Carolina State University to play defensive end. He was a 3-year starter at defensive end and tight end and a 3-time all-Conference player. As a freshman, he had an interception against Weddington in the 2019 NCHSAA 4A West championship game. This year, as a senior on defense he had 51 total tackles, 7 sacks and 16 tackles for loss, even with opposing teams running away from him. On offense, he had six receptions for 60 yards and one TD along with being the primary blocker on our run plays. We are excited about Isaiah’s future at NC State. He is actually attending classes there now and practiced with the NC State football team this morning before driving back up her to participate in this ceremony.”
“Trey has committed to Davidson College to play running back. He was a 3-year varsity player and starter at the running back position. He was a two-time First Team all-Conference selection. He played both the B-back and wing-back positions in our offense. Trey led the team in rushing his junior year. Despite missing some games his senior year due to injuries, he was able to still rush for over 1,400 yards and 12 TDs during his junior and senior seasons. We are excited about Trey’s future at Davidson College.”
“Cole has committed to East Tennessee State University to play linebacker and strong safety. He was a 3-year starter at wing-back and defensive back and a two-time First Team all-Northwestern Conference selection. Cole played a lot of football, going both ways for three straight seasons. This year, as a senior on defense Cole had 42 total tackles, one tackle for loss, 8 pass breakups, and four pass interceptions. On offense, he rushed for 229 yards and one TD, and had nine pass receptions for 140 yards and four touchdowns. We are excited about Cole’s future at ETSU.”
“Levi has committed to NC State University to play linebacker. Levi was a 3-year varsity athlete playing multiple positions on offense and linebacker on defense. He was First Team all-Conference his junior season. During his junior season, he had 35 tackles, 3 quarterback sacks, and five tackles for loss. Levi worked very hard in the offseason and was going to be one of the top linebackers in the Northwestern Conference his senior year. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the season and was not able to play on the field. But Levi was still a huge part of our success this year, leading his team and being the team’s vocal leader throughout his senior year. We are excited about Levi’s future at NC State University.”
In his closing remarks, Habich said, “They say when your best athletes are your hardest working players, you have a chance to be good. There is no doubt these six athletes were among the hardest-working players. They allowed us to have another successful football season on and off the field.”
Habich underlined the “blue collar” work ethic that his program aspires to instill in all of the student-athletes who participate in the Watauga football program. “They are not primadonnas and understand the importance of putting the team first, ready to play wherever they are need to help the team succeed.”