SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Central gym is covered in banners recognizing champion teams who have battled for high school over the past four decades, while only one former student-athlete, Travis Best, is currently recognized individually.
Best was a Star Boys high school basketball player in the ’90s, led the Golden Eagles to a state title, and was named both Gatorade All-American and Massachusetts Player of the Year while at school.
Best was the first student-athlete at Springfield Central to achieve all three milestones. Thirty-two years later, former Golden Eagles QB Will Watson III adds his name to the roster and the school’s gymnasium wall.
Watson was named Gatorade Massachusetts High School’s Football Player of the Year at the end of last season and received a banner on Wednesday commemorating the high school achievement. The former Springfield Central star joins Best and former Golden Eagles basketball star Felicia Barron as the winner of the honor.
Watson was a four-year starter for Springfield Central and led the program to two state title wins in three championship game appearances. Last fall, Watson led the Golden Eagles (10-2) to a Division I state championship appearance, piling up 3,226 yards and 39 touchdowns as a dual threat signal caller. Watson, a three-star recruit, completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,338 yards and 17 touchdowns, adding 928 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground. He was also named to the 2023 US Army All-American Bowl roster.
Watson signed to Virginia Tech in December after initially signing for Nebraska. The senior also had scholarship offers from Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, UMass, Kentucky, UConn, Boston College, Arizona and Akron.
Watson enrolled at Virginia Tech in December to participate in team training and prepare for spring drills beginning later this month.
Returning to Springfield for the presentation, Watson recalled the tremendous support he received from the city, his teammates and coaches during his time as a Golden Eagle.
“I needed a team to do that,” said Watson of his Player of the Year award. “The guys I’ve played with all my life, the young guys who got promoted this year, they all helped me to be successful. I see it more as a team effort that I was rewarded for.”
Will’s father, Bill Watson, is the head football and boys’ basketball coach at Springfield Central. Bill Watson coached his son while he was a youth player with the Springfield Tigers and four years at Springfield Central.
Bill Watson looks forward to the moment next basketball season when he can look up to a home game and see his son’s name hanging in the gym.
“It’s special,” said Bill Watson. “I can come and see his name. That will make me think back to our time when he played here. It’s something special. I can’t even put it all into words. I’m happy for him because a lot of people don’t know how much work he put in and how early he started.
“He came here and practiced with the high school kids at 6 a.m. in the fifth grade. … He had middle school teachers tell him not to exercise too much. Telling him to only focus on academics, but he was adamant. …People tried to put him in a bubble and he didn’t let himself be limited to that.”