High school football transfers: Catching up with the top players who have left SWFL

·4 min read

Not every local talent stays local.

A few highly recruited football prospects in the area, including a player ranked in The Big 15 in 2021, have opted to suit up outside of Lee County for the upcoming fall season.

Related: Introducing The News-Press 2021 All-Area Football Offense Team

SWFL: Introducing The News-Press 2021 All-Area Football Defense Team

We caught up with the three players who will be missed on Friday nights.

Myles Graham, Woodward Academy in Georgia

Former school: Evangelical Christian

Position: LB

Year: Junior

College commitment: TBD

Checking in: The news broke last December that Fort Myers football legend Earnest Graham would be stepping down as head football coach at ECS to move with his family to Georgia. That also meant that the Sentinels’ best player, his 6-foot-1, 200-pound son Myles Graham, would be leaving too.

“It’s a great fit for me and my family,” Myles Graham said.

Myles Graham, Evangelical Christian
Myles Graham, Evangelical Christian

The move has been a boon for Graham’s recruitment, as the offers— which include Ohio State, Alabama, Cincinnati, Michigan and Notre Dame— have piled up in 2022.

“It’s definitely been a blessing,” he said. “This whole process has been a blessing.”

Graham is interested in playing for a winning program with a great culture and academics.

“A school that wants the best from me on and off the field,” he said.

Graham described himself as a do-it-all linebacker, and he has produced on the field to back it up. He was a member of The News-Press First Team All-Area Defense last season after he recorded 130 tackles, eight passes defended, an interception and two forced fumbles for the Sentinels. He is nationally ranked among the top 10 linebackers in his class.

“I’m fast, I’m physical, I play downhill, I run to the ball, I have a high motor, I’m smart, I have great instincts,” Graham said.

He will be bringing all of that to the War Eagles this fall. Graham is aiming to top his tackle total from last season and snag “four or five interceptions.” He would also like to score 15 touchdowns on offense, where he plays running back.

“I just hope we work together well as a team,” Graham said. “I hope it takes my game to the next level.”

Winston Watkins, IMG Academy

Former school: Evangelical Christian

Position: WR

Year: Sophomore

College commitment: Texas A&M

Checking in: Watkins, the cousin of hometown stars Sammy and Jaylen Watkins, joined the Ascenders for his first year of high school, but he already had a year of varsity football under his belt.

At ECS, Watkins totaled 653 yards of total offense and three touchdowns as an eighth grader. Last season, he was the youngest player on the IMG roster and is looking forward to a bigger role in the fall.

“I’m very excited,” Watkins said. “I can’t wait to show everybody what I can do.”

Winston Watkins Jr. participates in the FBU Top Gun Showcase, Friday, July 9, 2021,  at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples.
Winston Watkins Jr. participates in the FBU Top Gun Showcase, Friday, July 9, 2021, at the Paradise Coast Sports Complex in Naples.

Wanting to prove “the hype is real,” Watkins has raked in offers since last summer when Texas A&M was the first for the 5-foot-10, 172-pound wide receiver.

The Aggies proved appealing for the young wideout, who committed to the school last December.

“To me, I feel like I’m one of them already, even though I’m not even there yet.”

In the upcoming season, Watkins wants to show he can be among the best players in his class with great stats on the field. As a player, he feels like he has no weaknesses.

“Just doing what I got to do and executing my job,” he said.

Jordan Church, IMG Academy

Former school: Dunbar

Position: OL

Year: Senior

College commitment: Louisville

Checking in: When the opportunity came up to play his senior season at IMG, Church said the decision was a "no-brainer."

"It's a lot of stuff here that can get me better, my body better," said Church, ranked No. 10 on The Big 15 last year.

Playing for the Tigers last season, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound tackle didn't give up any sacks and helped the offense average 195 passing yards and 180 rushing yards per game. Dunbar went undefeated in the regular season, and the sturdy offensive line was a big part of that success.

Church is making the switch to right guard for the Ascenders, an adjustment that he said was awkward at first but has quickly become natural for him.

Church said he is looking forward to the top-tier competition he'll be facing, something that will better prepare him for the next level.

Dunbar's Jordan Church, No. 10 on The News-Press and Naples Daily News The Big 15 list for 2021.
Dunbar's Jordan Church, No. 10 on The News-Press and Naples Daily News The Big 15 list for 2021.

Louisville was Church's third offer, and the Cardinals clearly made an impression as he visited the campus four times.

"When I visited there, it felt like home," he said.

Church also received offers from Florida State, Pitt, Missouri and Tennessee throughout the recruitment process. Teams liked his aggressiveness and how quick he is for his size, according to Church.

Making the decision before his senior season "takes a lot of the stress off," Church said.

His goal is to get more pancake blocks than last year and do everything he can to prepare for college ball.

"Get more film out there, show them I'm ready to come play early in college," Church said.

Follow News-Press Sports Reporter Dustin Levy on Twitter: @DustinBLevy. For additional coverage of sports across Southwest Florida, follow @newspresssports and @ndnprepzone on Instagram.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: High school football: Standouts who left the Southwest Florida area