Zone Read: From Pewaukee To Canton

Oh, hello March.

Spring has sprung and teams are already busy ramping back up for what it is expected to be an exciting 2021 Arizona high school football season.

It’s been quite a week already here in the Valley so let’s jump right into this week’s “Zone Read.”

Watt Really Happened

J.J. Watt.

Pewaukee High School [WI]. 

Two-star recruit.

“He definitely wasn’t 280 [pounds], probably closer to 220 which scared off a lot of schools,” Watt’s high school coach Clay Iverson said to the “Zone Read” earlier this week. “I was a little bias but I thought he was [under recruited]. Maybe we didn’t understand what we had. He wasn’t filled out [physically] and he wasn’t on people’s radar as a sophomore. His recruitment was such an odd experience.” 

Another hurdle Watt dealt with was a case of mononucleosis the summer before his senior season which limited his camp appearances, according to Iverson.

The newest member of the Arizona Cardinals story, from college and eventually into the NFL, has been well-documented. 

Watt signed with Central Michigan to play tight end for Brian Kelly. Kelly would soon leave for Notre Dame so Watt walked on at Wisconsin – even delivering pizzas to earn extra money – before eventually becoming the 11th pick in the first-round to the Houston Texans in the 2011 draft.

“I think he could have been an All-Pro offensive tackle, a tight end,” Iverson noted without hesitation. “A three-technique. A defensive end. He’s got such great hands and incredible feet. He’s aggressive. He’s a heck of a football player.”

Football wasn’t the only sport Watt excelled at as a youth.

“He was one of the top hockey players in the state of Wisconsin at one point,” Iverson said. “He was a great hockey player.”

Watt would eventually give up hockey at age 13 but, like many prep athletes, didn’t strictly focus on football in high school.

“He played basketball, baseball…track,” Iverson quickly noted. “He won the state championship in shot put. Those are the [sports] I can think of off the top of my head.”

Watt’s work ethic has always there. Iverson recalls his first memories of meeting J.J. (at the time an eighth-grader) and his brothers. He watched the athleitc siblings run around the track while their father timed them…after their school workout had concluded.

“Right then we realized the entire family was operating at a little different level. J.J. wasn’t your normal suburban Pewaukee kid.”

Throughout Watt’s college and now professional career which will undoubtedly lead to both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, he’s never lost the chip on his shoulder – or the fact football is still a team game – despite often being the most dominant player on the field.

“I give a lot of credit to him and his parents,” Iverson explained. “The thing about J.J. was, you could always coach him hard. When you can coach your best hard, that’s a great gift to give a coach. I think that’s rare.”

“When you’re coachable and hard-working, I guess that equals humble.”

Take note Arizona high school athletes.

Spring Fling(s)

It was nice to see a pair of former AZHS wide receivers shine last weekend as the Big Sky kicked off their abbreviated spring season.

Just up couple of hours up I-17, Higley alum Coleman Owen stole the show in Flagstaff and helped NAU bring the Grand Canyon Trophy back to Arizona.

Owen’s path to the high country is a unique one. 

Jordan Hamm brought you the story of the 2019 Arizona Lacrosse Player of the Year who grew up emulating a great running back, not a wide receiver. After missing his entire junior football season due to injury, Owen exploded as a senior for the Knights, reeling in 99 passes for 1538 yards and 22 touchdowns.

After walking on with the Jacks, this happened last month.

“Coleman is just getting started,” Higley head coach Eddy Zubey said to the “Zone Read.” “He is a gifted athlete and a hard worker. We knew this was coming for him. We are glad everyone else gets to see what we saw for four years at Higley.”

Meanwhile in Moscow, Idaho…

…Hayden Hatten continues to catch, well…everything.

Saturday’s late-game heroics helped the Vandals upset top-15 ranked Eastern Washington.

Some things never change.

“Right before that play there was a timeout and we were all huddled together,” the former Pinnacle and Saguaro standout said to the “Zone Read.” “When we walked out there and saw what coverage they were in…it was 3rd-and-10 and they didn’t have a safety over the top. They were expecting us to try to throw for the first down, not the end zone. We knew the shot was there and we had to take it when we had the opportunity. We dialed up that inside fade and it just happened to work out.”

Yeah, you could say that.

Hatten is no stranger to acrobatic catches, including this jaw-dropper last season at Wyoming.

So, where do those great hands and ball skills come from?

“I give a lot of credit to my dad, we played a lot of catch,” Hatten, who had six receptions for 138 yards against E-Wash, said with a chuckle. “I have a twin brother [Hogan], he has great hands, too. But he plays defense [linebacker at Idaho]. Just having a [brother] the same age as you, we were always playing sports. We were always throwing the ball around. Also, playing multiple sports. [I] played basketball and baseball. It all corrolates, especially with hand-eye coordination.”

Hayden has served as a Swiss Army knife of sorts for the Vandals. Last season, as a true freshman, he flipped between tight end, slot, and playing outside receiver. 

Part of his versatility at Idaho has come from a stronger, yet leaner, body.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder credits the Vandals’ weight and conditioning program, as well as a refined diet for his strong start to the spring season.

“Bumping out to wide receiver has allowed me to lose a little bit more weight,” Hatten said. “I’m as strong as I’ve ever been…I feel explosive and fast.”

Big Sky defensive coordinators are ceratinly on alert for the law firm of Owen and Hatten.