If that wasn’t bad enough, Watkins, a 6-0, 180-pound senior from Laurinburg, even missed spring drills earlier this season due to a relapse of his leg injury.
But Watkins is back to full strength for his final campaign – that’s what his teammates say; that’s what his coaches say; and that’s what he says.
“I feel like I’m back,” Watkins said following Friday’s practice. “I worked out hard with the team all summer – weight room, conditioning, everything.
“I don’t expect (vertigo) to come back and bother me; I went through it enough last year. Thank God I’m past that.”
John Bunting added about Watkins’ return: “His attitude is unbelievable right now – the best it’s ever been. What is most important to Jacoby Watkins is to have a good camp and gain back the confidence he’s had in the past.”
In ’04, Watkins started all 12 games at cornerback, finishing tied on the team with 61 tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He also had three pass breakups and one fumble recovery.
Watkins was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week for his performance in the Tar Heels’ 34-15 win over Georgia Tech. He made his first career interception in that game when he out-jumped ’06 preseason ACC Player of the Year Calvin Johnson at the UNC three-yard line. His second, and last pickoff, came in the fourth quarter of the same game.
But as he was on the cusp of making a name for himself, that’s when the unexpected setbacks started.
“It’s been tough, but you just have to live with it,” he said. “Ups and downs in college football are like that. I’m back now, and I’m ready to go. This team is excited. We’ve been working hard all summer. We’re just ready to get to work this training camp.”
In the meantime, he’s witnessed the UNC defense around him blossom from humiliation to genuine respectability.
“The sky is the limit for us,” Watkins said.