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Move to linebacker has really suited Watts

Posted Thursday, October 09, 2008 by Carla Watts
Times staff / ERIC HARTLINE Shomari Watts moved from the defensive line to an outside linebacker position that allows him to make big plays for a Haverford School defense that has been a strength for the Fords this season.
Times staff / ERIC HARTLINE Shomari Watts moved from the defensive line to an outside linebacker position that allows him to make big plays for a Haverford School defense that has been a strength for the Fords this season.
 
HAVERFORD - Shomari Watts knows all about the tradition at The Haverford School.
As a Fords wrestler during the winter season, Watts dons a singlet for a program that owns nearly 40 Inter-Academic League titles and gained national recognition under the watch of legendary coach Neil Buckley.

Watts also is aware of the school's lacrosse team, one that has won two state titles this decade. Watts sees the hardware in the trophy cases and hears the chatter about the recent success of many teams at the Main Line school. He hears nothing about his favorite sport - football.

"It definitely bothers me how the football team doesn't have the respect in the area," Watts said. "Our senior class had to do something about that."  A two-way standout, Watts has had plenty to do with The Haverford School's 3-1 record this fall, its best start since 2003. Saturday at 2:30 p.m., the Fords will look to make it four wins in five tries when they host Monsignor Bonner in a nonleague game. Since defeating Interboro in Week 2, Bonner (1-4, 0-2) has struggled. Offensively, the Friars have managed only 21 points all season. Life may not get any easier against the Fords.

Looming at the outside linebacker spot will be Watts, a senior who looks every bit the part of his defensive position. Every bit but one. Watts stands with a chiseled, 6-1, 215-pound frame. He waits just behind the line of scrimmage with his shoulder pads rising up over the back of his neck and a look of ferocity on his face that dares the opposition to run in his direction. Should they do so, big No. 76 will be prepared to make a bone-jarring tackle.
In the professional ranks, linebackers usually are suited with a number in the 50s. Even on college teams or most scholastic squads, linebackers, given their choice, will stay away from a numeral in the 70s. Most often, those numbers are saved for linemen.
Watts does play center on the offensive side of the ball. Prior to this season, he also manned the line for the Fords' defense. Then the coach stepped in with a plan. It involved changing a position, not a number.

"This year, moving Shomari to linebacker was the best thing for our team," Fords coach Mike Murphy said. "With the development of our program, it enabled us to move others guys to the (defensive) line and move (Watts) to the SAM linebacker spot. "We were concerned with trying to move an All-Inter-Ac lineman to another position. But he really has been a natural at it. And that tells you what a special athlete he is. The move has been seamless."

Over the last few years in the National Football League, players like Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers and DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys have changed the way teams play defense. Merriman and Ware are listed as outside linebackers, but are often used as rush ends. Some of the time they stay home and play in run or pass coverage. Other times they are in the backfield wreaking havoc on the quarterback.
With Watts having experience as a nose guard, Murphy has been able to use his senior captain in that hybrid position. Watts estimates that he plays about 10 defensive snaps each game with his hand on the ground, ready to get after the quarterback.

"I matured (physically) kind of late," Watts said. "I was kind of fat my freshman year. Then I grew and hit the weight room. That's when coach Murphy started to see it. I guess he saw my athleticism and looked at me on film and figured I'd be better as a linebacker.
"I always want to do what's best for the team. I wouldn't argue with my coaches over anything."  In sticking with what the coaches decided, Watts has led a defense that is allowing 13.7 points per game. The Fords' lone loss was a 7-0 setback to a Cardinal O'Hara squad that has surpassed the 30-point plateau in each of its four other games.
Watts also trusted his coach with a personal evaluation.

Moving to linebacker was supposed to help his team. It has. Moving to linebacker was also supposed to help Watts' college prospects. The coaches have been calling.
"I just love making plays," said Watts, who names Delaware, Georgetown, Stony Brook and William & Mary as schools that have inquired about his skills on the football field and in the classroom. "This is the first year I've been able to utilize my talent. Coach said that if I didn't play well, he would move me back to nose guard. I haven't been worried about that."
 

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