I caught up with Washburn senior linebacker Zach Watkins on Wednesday afternoon and came away extremely impressed — and ready to dole out some serious Sunflower Slate karma.
Here’s the skinny on Watkins — the 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker from Independence, Mo. (hometown of Harry Truman) is only the second player in Washburn history to go over 400 tackles, with 403, and could break the career mark of 459 this season. He’s had 100 tackles in each of his first three seasons; 100 in 2006, 143 in 2007 and 119 in 2008 and has led the Ichabods to a No. 17 ranking and 4-1 record this season.
Dude didn’t really want to give himself too much credit — but that’s what we’re here for. Gotta love when your linebackers wanna talk more about their defensive line than themselves. And his pregame music? Killswitch Engage. The Ichabods have got Fort Hays State coming to town on Saturday in Topeka.
Here’s our talk:
Sunflower Slate: You’re in your final year at Washburn and closing in on a pretty lofty record in the career tackles mark. In the middle of all of it do you ever catch yourself thinking about your accomplishments?
Zach Watkins: I really haven’t because I’ve been so focused on trying to help this team win games and be a leader out on the field. I get so wrapped up in the day-to-day stuff that all the personal stuff … I just never think about it.
SS: Did you think you’d have this type of impact coming out of high school?
ZW: You can’t go into college football thinking you’re going to be the best player, but once I got on the field I felt like I could definitely make an impact. As the years progressed I feel like I’ve become more of a leader and a player that the other teams need to prepare for.
SS: You’ve been on some teams that have come really close to being great but couldn’t seem to quite get over the hump when it came to the heart of MIAA play. What is it about this group that you think is different?
ZW: My sophomore year we made the playoffs, but we do feel like we’ve fallen short a couple of times. We feel like we’ve got a special group this year … we’re excited about keeping up what we’ve started this season.
SS: We’ve all got the idea — well at least I do — of the stereotypical middle linebacker who is kind of the frothing at the mouth, always ready for battle type of guy. Do you fit into that role? What are you like before games?
ZW: I feel like I’m pretty laid-back, and I’m not against pulling a prank … but when it comes to practice and to games I definitely am able to get that really intense focus and put everything else aside. I feel like I’m a hard-nosed player and to have any type of success I’ve got to be able to get into that mode. And it doesn’t hurt to have a great d-line.
SS: Nice. Giving the d-line props is never bad.
ZW: Without them I’m not going to get where I need to be. They play the way they do and it makes my job a lot easier.
SS: So what are you listening to before a game? Anything in particular?
ZW: (Laughing) That’s easy. Killswitch Engage.
I show my age and have him repeat the name of the band several times.
SS: What about away from football? What do you do for fun?
ZW: Play a lot of basketball, a lot of golf. We’ve got a group of seniors who have been together for four or five years and we’re pretty close. Just typical college-kid stuff … anything competitive usually catches our attention.
SS: Are you any good at golf?
ZW: Consistent low 80s.
SS: Last question. Biggest hit ever? College, high school, pee-wee football … what’s the biggest?
ZW: Mo-Kan All-Star game, senior year of high school. Tight end came right across the middle.
SS: Thanks for doing our Q&A. Best of luck this year.
I’m out. TA