European edition, Sunday, July 1, 2007

Through his junior season at Wiesbaden, E.J. Watson seemed like a long shot to win the DODDS-Europe male athlete of the year award.

Watson had never made an All-Europe team entering his senior year and had not played a winter sport as a junior.

That changed in a hurry, as Watson made the All-Europe football team in the fall and continued to excel in his final school year, ultimately earning the 2007 male athlete of the year award.

“I was surprised,” Watson, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound, three-letter man, said by telephone last week from Hudson, N.H., when asked about his reaction to shifting from the obscurity of the offensive line to center stage in European high school athletics.

“I was really excited.”

Watson broke out as a senior. He made the All-Europe football team in the fall and earned a heavyweight silver medal in the European wrestling tournament.

A solid season as a defender for the Warriors soccer team this spring filled out the three-sport résumé athlete of the year panelists like to see.

“Football’s my favorite sport,” said Watson, who said he plans to walk on this fall at Bowling Green University in Ohio.

Watson said he’ll be working out on his own this summer to try to prep for facing bigger, faster athletes in the Mid-American Conference. Regardless of what happens the next four years, Watson’s contributions at Wiesbaden were beyond dispute, according to his football and wrestling coach Steve Jewell.

Watson “was the predominant reason the Wiesbaden offense had the ability to run,” Jewell wrote on his nomination form. “The majority of our running yards gained were a direct result of his ability to block.”

Although Wiesbaden’s season ended in a Division I semifinal loss to eventual champion Ramstein, Watson continued his standout senior season by placing second to Sascha Chavez of Kaiserslautern in February’s heavyweight championship bout.

Chavez struck for early points and held Watson off to win 4-3. Watson was disappointed by coming up two points short of a championship, but his accomplishments were remarkable for a wrestler with just two years of experience.

“Wrestling was a new sport to me,” said Watson, who moved to Wiesbaden after spending his freshman year at Brussels. “I didn’t wrestle (my junior) year because I wanted to work out on my own.”

The solo concept, however, gave way to camaraderie his senior season.

“This year, I had lots of friends on the team and more than one person to wrestle in practice,” Watson said.

“It was fun.”

Watson provided an intimidating backline presence for Ben Arcila’s Warriors during his Wiesbaden career.

“I’ve been playing soccer most of my life,” Watson said.

Watson, who said he’s grown up overseas, now takes his enthusiasm to the United States.

“I’m pretty excited about living in the States,” he said.

“The people here are really great.”

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