Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the July-August edition of Dalton Magazine. Copies of the magazine are available at The Daily Citizen at 308 S. Thornton Ave. in Dalton.
One national sports media outlet called him a “social media treasure.”
But above Watts Dantzler’s online humor, he’s a football player, one who expects more from himself entering his junior season as an offensive lineman at the University of Georgia.
After becoming an accomplished football player at Dalton High School, Dantzler has played in nine games through his first two college seasons. Entering the upperclassman phase of his collegiate career, he hopes to receive more positive reviews about his on-field playing, not just his off-the-field tweeting and blogging.
Georgia, ranked fifth in The Associated Press’ preseason Top 25, kicks off its 2013 season at 8 p.m. Saturday at No. 8 Clemson.
“I think definitely (I want) to be someone that can contribute a lot and not play in just games where we’re up by a lot,” Dantzler said. “It’s something I’d like, but whatever helps the team out the most is fine with me. We have a lot of strong offensive linemen. I think this year we’ll play six or seven offensive linemen, so we’ll see.”
ONCE A CAT
Dantzler was recruited by other Southeastern Conference schools and narrowed the decision to Georgia and Auburn before verbally committing to the Bulldogs on Father’s Day in 2010. His father, Danny Dantzler, played for Georgia some 40 years prior and died in 2009 of ALS. Dantzler’s mother, Jean, met his father when the two were freshmen in Athens. Watts Dantzler — 6 feet, 7 inches and 307 pounds — graduated from Dalton High in 2011 after three seasons and a program-record 31 consecutive starts on the Catamounts’ offensive line.
Dalton offensive line coach Bill Mayo, who coached Dantzler three seasons in high school and one when Dantzler was an eighth-grader at Dalton Middle School, said he and the player have stayed close even after high school graduation.
“He and I have become real close,” said Mayo, who played offensive line at the University of Tennessee from 1981-1984. “He has become kind of part of our family and me and my wife have become close to him and talk and see him on a regular basis.”
In Dantzler’s three seasons as a starter for the Cats, Dalton’s football program went 21-10 with one trip to the postseason, the Class 4A state playoffs in 2009. Dantzler was on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Top 50 list of high school football players in Georgia and the newspaper’s Class 3A All-State Team as a senior in high school. Additionally, he made the Georgia Sports Writers Association All-State team and was a three-star recruit on Rivals.com, which ranked him 44th among offensive tackles in the country and 30th among all players in the state. Scout.com had him rated four stars, the 219th-best player in the country, 23rd-best offensive tackle in the country and 17th-best in the state.
He made The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Football Team his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
“The thing about Watts when he was in high school is he was probably one of the smartest football kids I ever coached,” Mayo said. “He understood the sports, the concept of the play and not only what he was supposed to do but what everyone else was supposed to do. He got it and not a lot do.”
Additionally, he was a standout on the basketball court. Dantzler averaged 17 points, nine rebounds and four blocks his senior season. The Cats finished 16-9 but lost in the Region 7-3A tournament quarterfinals and didn’t reach the state tournament. Dantzler made The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Boys Basketball Team both that season and the year prior as a junior.
“A lot of folks don’t understand just how good a basketball player Watts is,” Dalton coach Michael Duffie said about the post player when he was selected to the all-area team after his senior season. “Once he got into full basketball shape, he became the player that he really is. If it weren’t for football, he would play college basketball somewhere at some level. He has great hands. During his junior year, we had as many people watching him play basketball as they did football. Watts is a straight athlete, and that is what made him attractive to a lot of folks. Basketball just made him better.”
One of the first things Mayo remembers from the eighth-grade version of Dantzler is his physical presence.
“He was a big kid then,” Mayo said. “You could tell he was athletic and had some potential. He came to us from being home schooled. His eighth-grade year at Dalton Middle School was his first in a public school and first on a team like that. ... I took him to a lot of camps and something they do is one-on-one pass protection. That is something people look at a lot. ... Watts picked out the biggest kid at the camps. He picked out the stud guy. He didn’t win them all but he won a lot and he never quit.”
Dantzler said his trips from Athens to Dalton take place during bye weeks, for Christmas, after bowl games and in between spring and summer classes.
“I’m really proud of where I came from,” Dantzler said. “I try to make my city look good. I try to represent my family and where I came from as a good person and player.
“Dalton was a great school with great teachers and coaches. They didn’t just teach us football but life lessons and how to act on the field and off the field. I carried those to college.”