HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - For a stretch of time, University of Southern Mississippi receiver Quez Watkins wasn’t sure if he was going to be back on the football field with his Golden Eagle teammates.
Watkins, a first-team All-Conference USA selection led USM’s receiving corps in 2018 with 72 catches for 889 yards and nine touchdowns.
But at the end of the fall semester, Watkins found out he had come up short in the classroom and was no longer in good academic standing at the university.
“I felt like I was kind of on the edge a little bit, and then it was a last-minute thing,” Watkins said Friday morning after USM opened preseason practice. “When I first found out, it was like everything went slow.”
Unable to enroll for the spring semester at USM, Watkins found himself at a crossroads.
“When it first happened, and they put out the plan (for reinstatement), it was so long from then, and it was like, ‘What if this happens?’ or ‘What if that happens?’
“Aww, man, it was six months, and six months felt like a year, honestly,” Watkins said. “It was just so long.”
But Watkins went after it, enrolling at Pearl River Community College and completing the necessary number of hours to let him re-enroll for summer classes at USM.
After completing the summer requirements as well, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior from Athens, Ala., found himself back at the Joe P. Park Practice Facility Friday morning looking like he hadn’t missed a beat.
“He’s doing really good,” USM coach Jay Hopson said. “That will be a fun to position to watch because we’ve got seven or eight guys all battling. We know Quez had a great year last year, but we’ve got a bunch of good players at that position.”
Watkins said having to work his way back on the field has changed him.
“It helped me grow a lot,” Watkins said, “built a lot character for me. The people in my corner, my family, some of my teammates, I needed them, and they came through, checking on me. They played a huge role.
“Now, I’m back, and everything has speeded back up.”