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Ricky Watters resigns post as Florida prep football coach amid controversy

Ben Rohrbach
Prep Rally

Well, Ricky Watters' high school football coaching career lasted all of three games.

The five-time NFL All-Pro resigned his Orlando (Fla.) Oak Ridge High head coaching gig two weeks into a paid suspension during an investigation of his alleged use of harsh language and bumping of a player, according to Central Florida's WFTV Channel 9.

Watters announced his resignation in a heartfelt release to the Orlando Sentinel, defending his tough love as a necessary evil in changing the culture of an inner-city school "with a history of unruly behavior and a lack of discipline and respect."

I do know my time here at Oak Ridge has made a positive impact. (Principal) Dr. Bradshaw has expressed gratitude for my efforts and the personal resources I have contributed to the school and football program. Several of my players and their parents have reached out to me expressing their gratitude, concern and wishes for my quick return. This was a difficult decision; however, I am stepping down so that my team can go on with their season without any further distractions. There are several seniors with opportunities for college scholarships and I want them to stay focused on that goal. I am sad that cannot continue to be their coach, mentor and confidant. I would like my players to know that I care deeply for them and I believe in each and every one of them. I would also like to thank y former NFL comrades Keiwan Ratliff, Eric Moulds, Dorsey Levens and Ryan Longwell for sharing their expertise, time and resources with my team. Moving forward, my focus will be on spending quality time with my two sons who kindly shared me with the players at Oak Ridge and on trying to make a difference for young people facing adversity in life like I did.

Sincerely,
Ricky Watters

Watters, 44, spent most of his NFL retirement as a motivational speaker for at-risk Central Florida youths before accepting his first coaching job of any kind at Oak Ridge.

The former Super Bowl champion also served as an Oak Ridge disciplinary program monitor while his wife, Catherina, taught business education at the school. The two resigned all their posts at Oak Ridge, according to the Orlando Sentinel report.

The Orange County Public Schools system reportedly placed Watters on paid leave Sept. 20, a week after the Pioneers' 53-24 loss to Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange High. While neither Watters nor OCPS directly addressed the incident, the 11-year NFL veteran wrote, "It is unfortunate that the events at the West Orange game occurred."

The investigation was ongoing when Watters resigned on Tuesday. The Pioneers (3-2) are 2-0 under interim head coach Travis Gabriel, who served as the defensive coordinator under Watters. Gabriel will reportedly continue coaching in some capacity going forward.

"I have no knowledge of anything," Gabriel told the Sentinel. "All I can tell you is that I'm just coaching. I'm just coach Gabriel, Coach Gabe to my players. That has nothing to do with me. That stuff is all internal."

The Oak Ridge football team features a pair of Division I recruits in the Rivals.com database: senior quarterback Jerrell Antoine and junior athlete Deangelo Antoine.

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