Watts, Miller sign with Tennessee-Martin

Published 7:55 am Friday, December 21, 2018

Despite being from the same town and playing against each other a few times in high school, Kordell Watts says he didn’t know Malcolm Miller until college.

Now, the two can’t seem to get away from each other.

Watts and Miller, teammates at Jones College after coming from Vicksburg High and Warren Central, respectively, both signed with Tennessee-Martin on Wednesday.

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“We didn’t even know each other until we got to Jones,” Watts said of his relationship to Miller. “I didn’t know he was from Vicksburg. That’s kind of weird. The coach put all the Vicksburg guys on one team. We kind of became brothers after that.”

As well as part of a pretty good offensive line and team. A third Jones lineman, tackle Cru Birdyshaw, also signed with Tennessee-Martin on Wednesday.

Malcolm Miller

Jones finished 10-2 this season and reached the MACJC state championship game before losing to eventual NJCAA national champion East Mississippi. The Bobcats beat Eastern Arizona in the Mississippi Bowl and averaged 171.3 rushing yards per game for the season.

Fifteen players from Jones signed with Division I programs on Wednesday, including linebacker and former Vicksburg High star Nick Anderson with Tulane.

Miller and Watts both play guard, although Tennessee-Martin coach Jason Simpson said he planned to move Watts to center.

“We made a decision that we needed a center to come in here and compete for the starting job and Kordell is a guy who is a 6-2, 6-3 guy with long arms, great character, a great family and a great student and we think he’s going to come in here and compete for the starting job,” Simpson said.

Simpson had similar high praise for Miller, a 6-foot-3, 293-pound sophomore who was named to the All-MACJC South Division second team. The two Vicksburg players were among six offensive linemen in UT-Martin’s 23-player signing class, but Simpson indicated both will have a chance to start next season.

“Malcolm was a guy who, when we went into this recruiting process, we didn’t know depth-wise if we needed a guard. But when you watch Malcolm and his athleticism at the guard spot, you felt like you couldn’t do without him,” Simpson said. “We felt like he was going to be able to come in here and compete for a starting position immediately because of his athleticism. We’re very excited about the next two years with Malcolm.”

Watts is also excited. Jones was his only firm offer coming out of high school, and he didn’t receive a lot of attention after his freshman season in Ellisville. This time around he had more than a dozen colleges offering scholarships. Most, including UT-Martin, were Football Championship Subdivision programs and he said he liked the Skyhawks best.

“When I went on the visit it felt like home. It felt like the place for me and my brother to be at for our last few years of school and get my education,” Watts said. “As soon as I got there they were like, ‘Are you ready to win a ring?’ I said yes, sir. I like the strength program to get me right, and I like the schedule. They’re going to be playing some of the top SEC schools next year.”

UT-Martin plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, but will play at Southeastern Conference powers Florida and Kentucky next season, and at Alabama in 2020. It has played Missouri and Ole Miss the past two seasons, as well as a handful of other Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.

Besides playing at some great SEC venues, Watts said he was hoping to help lift the Skyhawks — and himself — into the upper echelon of the OVC.

“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was in high school,” Watts said. “I’m ready to play. I’m trying to be all-conference and go win a ring.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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