Wearing a grass stain on the back of his gray Paine College shirt, Kentrell Latimore said he wanted to test himself Saturday.
Latimore was one of 247 participants in the first tryout for the Paine football team at Lucy C. Laney Stadium. Latimore, who tried out at wide receiver, said this was his first football experience since his days starring at Warren County High School.
“I’m just here for the experience,” said Latimore, who will be a junior in the fall at Paine. “If I don’t make it, I’ve lived my glory days. I’m just seeing what I’ve got left in the tank.”
Paine is reviving its football program after a 51-year absence.
The Lions will start playing on the NCAA Division II level in 2014 as a member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The team will practice and play a handful of games this fall against club
Any concerns over the interest of an Augusta college football team ended Saturday morning.
Registration started at 10 a.m. and continued for 90 minutes. The 31/2-hour tryout mostly drew former local high school standouts as well as players from around the state.
“Just on the sheer numbers, it’s been a success,” Paine head coach Greg Ruffin said. “This is real. It’s overwhelming that these young men want to represent Paine College.
“This shows the interest is there.”
Latimore added: “It’s exciting.” He said about 10 players from Paine College tried out. “I didn’t expect to see this many guys. It’s good to see all of them out here.”
Players went through individual drills – timed 40-yard dash, 225-pound bench press test – before breaking up into large groups on the practice and stadium fields.
Receivers coach Nick Lewis expected perfection in various receiving drills. Players got an earful if they didn’t run exact routes, like taking just two steps on a 3-yard slant route.
“Y’all are going to make me come out of retirement,” the former Grambling football player shouted.
Wearing a Central Michigan shirt, tight end/wide receiver Lotrel Watkins did his best to impress in his return to football. The 25-year-old Watkins, who works for Augusta 911 Emergency Services, was a walk-on in 2005 at Central Michigan under then coach Brian Kelly.
“I wanted to get back on the field,” Watkins said. “I was thinking about going to Benedict, but then Paine opened up tryouts. So I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Ruffin said he’s planning to hold June tryouts in Atlanta and Charleston. He added he has to identify the 120 to 150 players he’s going to bring in for the start of school in August.
“We’ve got enough talent to bring into the fall and build on,” Ruffin said. “And that’s not even counting the kids in Florida, the kids in Atlanta. There’s about 45 kids that’s not even here who I know are coming.”