U.S. Army Cadet Command
Like a seasoned leader, Travis Watson is barking out orders, moving back and forth and gesturing all at once as he directs a group of high school football players on the field in the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"Put your toe ON the white line, not OVER the white line or BEHIND the white line," he said.
Satisfied, he jots down the players’ names and corresponding jersey numbers as he moves down the line.
Right now, Watson is making sure that the football players are in the right place at the right time.
He is one of 20 ROTC cadets out on the field who, as marshals, are each in charge of a group.
Watson draws on his college football experience as he mentors these underclassmen who are participating in the U.S. Army National Combine.
"I understand them and can coach them up," Watson said during a break.
He played five years as a center at Sam Houston State University.
The combine focuses on measuring speed, strength, quickness, and football skill, while also providing educational seminars touching on the recruiting process, speed and strength improvement, and leadership.
Held annually in association with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the combine gives the nation’s top 500 underclassmen a chance to demonstrate their physical talent and compete against one another before top scouting organizations, as well as the All-American Bowl Selection Committee.
If Watson looks like a natural when leading people, it is because he is already an experienced leader off the field.
He is an Army ROTC cadet in ROTC’s Simultaneous Membership Program at Sam Houston State University.
He is also an infantryman in Company B, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 72nd Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard.
Watson said football and the Army are a lot alike.
"The biggest thing that carries over from football to the Army is the leadership aspect, discipline, structure and making decisions in adverse situations," he said.
His long-term goal is to join Special Forces so he can embed with local nationals.
To reach that goal, he has completed a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in history and Middle Eastern studies. Soon, he will begin a master’s in homeland security.
He also studied abroad in Jordan as an undergrad and plans to improve his Arabic.
While those goals are still a ways off, he is excited right now to lead as an infantry officer.
"I’ve always known I wanted to be a foot soldier, to be in the infantry."
As for today, Watson is able to share his passion for football and the Army with up and coming scholar athletes.