September 12, 2005 - by
Covering Territory In The Defensive Backfield

Sept. 12, 2005

Standing 6-4 at his free safety position, senior Pat Watkins is the first player opposing quarterbacks take notice of before the snap of the ball.

There is good reason for that as the Tallahassee native entered the 2005 season second among ACC players in career interceptions with seven. Watkins is one of a long line of local high school players who chose to continue his football career in Tallahassee and has gone on to become one of the best players in college football.

Watkins considered moving on to the professional ranks after a junior season in which he started all 12 games, recorded four interceptions, totaled 56 tackles and earned ACC honorable mention honors.

There was still too much left on the table for him to leave his hometown just yet.

“I decided to return for my senior season because I didn’t feel like I was ready and there were some things that I wanted to improve on,” Watkins said. “Most importantly, I wanted another chance to win a national championship with this class I came in with. Besides doing what I can do to help us reach our team goals, it
would mean a lot to become an All-American. But to do that, I know we have to have success as a team first.”

If Watkins can continue to add to his career interception total and anchor one of the best defenses in the country, those goals are well within reach. He was rated as the No. 6 free safety in the nation by The
Sporting News entering the season, along with being named preseason All-ACC.

“Pat has really done a good job for us,” head coach Bobby Bowden said. “We haven’t had many safeties like him with that kind of size and range. I don’t care how high you can jump for the ball, he can go higher. He’s the kind of player that can make an impression in every ball game.”

Aside from his outstanding play through his first three seasons at FSU, Watkins also has been one of the most reliable Seminoles on the roster. He has played in 37 consecutive games with 14 straight starts coming into today’s game against The Citadel.

The competition on the field goes further than just the scoreboard for Watkins.

He and fellow Lincoln High School graduate Antonio Cromartie have enjoyed a friendly battle for the interception lead over the years. Last year, the two Tallahassee natives tied for the team lead and ranked second in the ACC with four picks each. Watkins will look to increase his interception lead and put it out of
reach when Cromartie is able to return to the field next year.

“There’s always a special bond between guys that played at the same high school or college and we’ve done both,” Watkins said. “I feel like I can always turn to Antonio in any situation. We have a good time with the interception thing. Hopefully, I can add a few more picks this year and make it really difficult for him to catch me. I’m going to set the bar high because I expect him to have a big year when he gets back. I’d love to have bragging rights on that.”

If Watkins can put some distance between himself and Cromartie, he’ll easily crack the top 10 on FSU’s all-time list. Though they have fun with the interception battle, there is a great deal of respect between the two.

The duo helped lead Lincoln to the Class 4A state championship in 2001.

“He’s the best safety in college football in my opinion,” said Cromartie. “I can honestly say there is nobody in the country that covers as much ground as Pat Watkins. I’ll miss having him back there next year. He better get about 10 interceptions this year if he thinks he’ll top me.”

Watkins plans on enjoying his last season in Tallahassee and helping the Seminoles re-establish the dynasty he grew up following. Next year, it will be off to a new city when he takes his talents to the next level.

“It will definitely be hard when I play my final game at Doak Campbell Stadium,” Watkins said. “Until then, I’m going to enjoy every moment. This is my home and I have had an unbelievable experience at Florida State playing in front of my friends and family. I’ve also had the chance to play for the best coach in college
football. I’ll never forget the great memories and I wouldn’t trade my experience here for anything.”

A national championship and a spot as a consensus All-American would be the perfect finish to what has been an outstanding career.

By Jeff Purinton
FSU Sports Information
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