Hartselle's Watson spends summer at boot camp
Tiger tight end enjoys a unique experience in the offseason
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
Like his football teammates, Hartselle's Andrew Watson spent most of the offseason wearing a uniform. But unlike the other Tigers, Watson's uniform was camouflage.
Watson, a senior tight end, spent most of the summer at boot camp in Fort Benning, Ga. Watson's family has a history of military experience, and their stories enticed him to join the camp from May 31 to Aug. 11.
"My granddad retired as a lieutenant colonel after fighting in World War II, Korea and Vietnam," Watson said. "My other granddad was in the Air Force and he fought in Korea also, and my uncle is a retired Marine.
"They told me about (boot camp) and how much fun they had doing it. They said that I'd have a lot of fun there."
While his Tiger teammates were hard at work in the blistering August sun during two-a-days practice, Watson's face was missing from the crowd. But his coaches weren't worried one bit.
"We're not worried about (Andrew)," Hartselle head coach Bob Godsey said. "They've probably got him working even harder than we've been."
Watson said that the camp was indeed very tough, with cadets rising out of bed every morning at 3:30 a.m. or so and physical training beginning at 5 a.m. He said that most of the boot camp was focused on warrior skills and combat.
"We learned hand-to-hand combat, how to do technical movements in squads and how to shoot weapons and throw grenades," Watson said. "The weather out there was pretty hot and humid, and it seemed like a very long time there."
That time seemed even longer with Watson's lack of outside communication. He said that he was only allowed a few phone calls with his parents, and that most of the communication took place through letter writing. As for entertainment, the cadets did not have movies, but were allowed a little time to watch television while eating meals in the mess hall.
Watson said that there wasn't really much time for personal entertainment, anyway. His drill sergeants saw to that.
"I'd have to say that those drill sergeants are harder on you than football coaches," Watson said with a grin. "When the coaches yell at me now, it doesn't really even bother me any more."
Watson's time at camp culminated with graduation on Aug. 11, where he received his beret and finally got to see his parents again after almost two-and-a-half months away from them. But there was no time to rest, because Watson re-joined the team for practice right away that week.
"The coaches told the team not to worry about me, because I'd probably be working just as hard as they were," Watson said. "When I got back with the team it was weird for a while. I was in shape, and everything, but I wasn't used to all the blocking and hitting right away."
Godsey said Watson will probably see some playing time at tight end this season. Watson believes that his boot camp experience will serve him well throughout the football season, because the two activities are simliar in many respects.
"You've got to be disciplined, and you've got to be in shape (for both boot camp and football practice," he said. "I had no idea what to expect going into boot camp, and it ended up being totally different from anything I'd ever seen or anything I'd have expected it to be."
The boot camp experience has left a positive taste in Watson's mouth, and the Hartselle senior said that he has plans to continue with the military following high school.
He hopes to attend Advanced Individual Training next summer, and his ultimate goal is to be a member of the military police.
But for now, Watson's happy wearing the uniform of the red and white.