Winston Watkins Jr. ready to make a name for himself at Colorado


EMERSON, Ga. – When Winston Watkins Jr. was coming up through the Pop Warner leagues in Fort Myers, Fla., he had a distinctive nickname.

One that was given to another Fort Myers superstar decades before: Prime Time.

“All my life I just knew about Deion (Sanders),” Watkins said at the NextGen Five-Star Pro Day selected by Rivals earlier this week. “When I was a little kid playing Pop Warner they used to call me Winston ‘Prime Time’ Watkins Jr. My nickname changed when I got to IMG. My middle name was always Prime Time because I always did the stuff he used to do.

“I told him when I went to Colorado. He started laughing. He said, ‘It’s great man.’ He said he always knew who I was, he was just waiting for me to come up.”

The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy five-star receiver is now up. Fast, dynamic, thrilling, there are so many adjectives to describe Watkins on the football field. Another description for him is Colorado commit.

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After thinking about playing at an established national power – all of them are recruiting him – the 2025 standout made the courageous decision after a previous pledge to Texas A&M to pick Colorado in early December, one day after Sanders took the job in Boulder.

“It was hard,” Watkins said. “I had a long talk with my dad before I wanted to do that but I have faith in Deion. Deion is a winner. All his life he’s been a winner. He’s from my city, so I know he’s going to win. I have faith he’s going to win.

“It’s all just faith. You know how people have faith in God saying there is a God? I have faith in Deion that he’s going to go out there and do what he’s going to do.”

Now it’s time for some prayers to be answered.

Colorado was a god-awful 1-11 football team last year, with many losses being complete and utter blowouts. Sanders spoke about the mess he inherited in team meetings with music playing and players cycling through their cell phones – while coaches talked.

When Sanders told the players during his first team meeting he was bringing his own Louis Vuitton to Boulder – and basically encouraged players to hit the transfer portal – some viewed that as off-putting. Sanders argued it’s what had to be done.

From afar, Watkins saw it as a necessary evil to purge lackluster performance out of the program so the Buffaloes could rebuild quickly with transfers. And boy, have they done that. CBS Sports reported in May that 73 players have left the Colorado program since the beginning of the 2022 season.

Yeah, the Buffs were 1-11 last season but this is – quite literally – an entirely new team with many upgrades. A Walmart duffel bag is now fine leather luggage in many respects.

“It was a little harsh but then I understand it,” Watkins said. “At the time they were 1-11, you got to bring it a little different than that. I do know what he was trying to say. He definitely has to get them boys with that winning and competitive mentality.”

The five-star receiver talks regularly with Sanders’ son, Shedeur, about the team’s progress since he’s expected to be the starting quarterback, and also about Shedeur’s father’s health as he deals with some blood-clot issues.

“(Shedeur) is really just trying to get through what he has going on … so he’s just making sure the team is doing right and getting on the right track and has a winning season,” Watkins said. “He’s making sure he’s healthy.

“I’m talking to Shedeur all the time to see how the team is looking because Deion can’t be there every practice. Shedeur is making sure he’s standing up and being a leader.”

What’s realistic for Colorado? Watkins sees a bowl game this season. When he gets there, more.

“I feel like we can win a championship by the time I get there,” Watkins said. “If they go out and do what they have to do and make it to a bowl game, my class is coming in and I’m going to get some of my guys to come with me. As long as those guys can set the tone and it shows Deion can win with what he’s got then when he gets elite players we can be up there with the big dogs.”

Those big dogs haven’t stopped barking at Watkins, though.

Ohio State, Alabama, Texas and Tennessee are four schools that have not backed off one iota in recruiting the 2025 five-star. In September when regular communication can happen, Watkins predicts more will get involved.

According to Watkins, some big-time coaches are trying to sow doubts into Sanders’ capabilities at the highest level of college football.

“A lot of the college coaches say stuff, but at the same time they know it’s Deion,” Watkins said. “They say he never coached at this top level, this Power Five, but at the same time they know it’s Deion Sanders. He’s a Hall of Famer. What more can you say?”

Watkins has the faith. It’s all there is right now.



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