Charlotte defensive end Markees Watts will return to Charlotte for his senior season 2021, and Watts is determined to step into the leadership role as he looks to blossom as a player and a person.
"My senior year has to be my best year," said Watts. "I want to get better than I am currently."
The Lancaster, SC native will look to bounce back after an injury-ridden season just a year ago. Watts is itching to get back on the field and produce at a high level once again. Watts is ready to put the injury in the past with new techniques this season.
"I want to train like a professional, and when it comes to the game, I want to make sure that I am safe," said Watts. "I have to play right to keep going."
The role of leadership is one that Watts will look to fit into for the 49ers. Watts is on a mission to lead by example for the younger players and help them get better. He believes that actions on the field speak louder than words.
"I feel like I am the type of guy that leads by example and not as much vocally," said Watts. "I plan on leading by example every day possible."
Watts has the drive to learn the game by preparing himself for every play. He was all over the field in 2019 as he would rack up 62 total tackles. Watts is also the third 49er to have double-digit sacks with 11.5. He has high expectations for himself to keep those numbers up.
"I ran to the ball and was all over the place in 2019, but I wanna add that knowledge to it as well," said Watts. "I want to be able to predict the plays before they happen."
Watts is not the only person with high expectations for himself as head coach Will Healy is also excited for his progression as a player. Healy feels that Watts will be highly successful on the field this season but even more successful off it. Healy reflected on Watts' progression as a player and how he will continue to grow this season.
"Markees went from being a guy that struggled with consistency to now being the heartbeat of the whole team," said Healy. "His work ethic, leadership, and determination have shaped him into the player he is now."
Assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Marcus West feels that Watts will fit into the defensive strategy by leading the team into battle. West thinks that Watts has taken lessons learned from his predecessors and will apply them throughout the season. West is ready to see this new defense play together and see Markees Watts take a big jump in his game.
"Markees is walking in the footsteps of his predecessors, and if he continues to do that, he will be set up for success," said West. "We want to have consistency with Markees, and we feel like he will make a big jump this year."
The 49ers are looking to get back on track after a season that saw Covid-19 cause multiple cancellations for the team. Watts is confident that this group of players is ready to create more success for the program. The expectations are high, and Watts is excited for what is to come.
"I feel like we can only look up from here," said Watts. "I see us continuing to get better throughout the season."
Watts has many goals that he hopes to accomplish this season. He wants to get back to producing at the level he was in 2019 and helping the team in any way that he can. Watts is looking to tie his career-high of 9.5 sacks and bring passion on every snap this season.
"I have to beat nine and a half sacks this season," said Watts. "If I can reach that goal, I feel like all the other areas of my game will take care of themselves."
Healy also has lofty goals for the senior this season, and he is ready to help him reach them. Watts continues to coach up younger players and genuinely wants to invest in the future of 49er football. Healy has confidence that this season will be the best yet for Watts.
"I expect Markees to have an all-American type season," said Healy. "Markees Watts has changed his entire life for his fellow teammates and the program in general."
Watts has been shaped throughout his life for this moment, and he will not let it slip by him. Markees Watts will step up and take life by the reins for his final season in Charlotte green. The time is now, and all the trials he has been through have shaped him into the person he is today. He has been ready to take on this role his whole life, and he looks forward to what is ahead.
"I have been tossed in the fire my whole life," said Watts. "It comes down to the player and person that I want to be, so I feel that I am in control of my future."