This self-proclaimed “athletic nerd” is going places that no other Windsor High School student-athlete has ever gone.
David Watson, 18, a senior at Windsor High School, committed Tuesday night to attend college and play baseball at the California Institute of Technology.
Caltech is considered to be the top engineering college in the world. The private university in Pasadena, Calif., has been ranked first internationally since 2011 by the Times Higher Education World University rankings. Caltech was ranked as the best university in the world in two categories — engineering and technology and physical sciences.
“I started my application process two or three months before the actual deadline,” Watson said. “There were days where I didn’t want to keep doing it. All the essays you had to write, and all the information that they asked you for it was just a lot to do. But getting through it all and spending so much time on it I think is how I made myself stand out.”
Watson said he described himself as an “athletic nerd” in one of the six or eight essays he had to write during the application process.
“A lot of the essays were about getting to know me as a person,” Watson said.
According to the high school’s counseling department, Watson will be the first Windsor student to ever attend Caltech, which has a total enrollment of about 2,200 students with less than 1,000 undergraduates and a 3-to-1 professor to student ratio.
“I like smaller classrooms with more focus on me as a person,” Watson said. “With the smaller classes it will be really beneficial to get that one-on-one time and be able to learn better. I’m used to being at the top of the class. Going there will be a new experience of not being No. 1, to be somewhere in the middle ground. I’m just excited to see what kind of education the top engineering school brings. Everything about it is really exciting.”
The distance from Windsor to Pasadena will be an adjustment for Watson when he arrives at Caltech, which costs $60,000 per year to go there. Watson said he was awarded a gift grant of $40,000 per year, so he’ll have to come up with another $20,000 per year.
“It is a good chunk, but a whole lot better than 60. I feel like at some times that I’m ready to go out there, and at other times just the thought of not being able to see family or friends for a couple months at a time ... I guess until it actually happens it won’t seem real,” Watson said.
Watson, the son of Stephanie and Chris Watson, is a do-it-all kind of kid. A rare three-sport athlete — baseball, football and basketball — and member of the National Honor Society and robotics club, Watson is ranked No. 2 in his class with a 4.298 grade-point average who earned a 34 ACT score.
Watson plans to study aerospace engineering at Caltech, the academic home of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“Anything that involves space and flight is real intriguing,” Watson said.
Watson said he’d like to end up working at NASA someday.
Watson’s mother is the school district’s assistant superintendent for business services. Her boss, superintendent Karen Trusler, watched Watson grow from a child into a young man through the years.
“I remember from elementary school he’s always wanted science and math. He talked about being an astronaut when he was a second-grader at Grandview,” Trusler said. “He has just matured and blossomed into this wonderful young man Our future’s in great hands with individuals such as David. We wish David the best.”
With his mother an accountant who works the numbers for the school district and his dad an electrical engineer, numbers and Watson go hand in hand.
“Numbers are like words,” Watson said. “My parents really pushed me to do well in school. Up to a certain point I started to want to do well myself, but their influence was really big. I feel like when you want to do something it comes easier.”
Windsor High School Principal Michelle Scallon said Watson has been a model student at Windsor.
“It’s an honor for us,” Scallon said. “It’s been a pleasure to see David academically and athletically. He truly is a leader and an all-around good kid. He is gracious, humble and intelligent. He’s got a lot of qualities that would make a great role model for a lot of our kids.”
Windsor baseball coach Brad Deal said for a kid to strive for excellence in three sports is amazing in this day and age.
“In the summers, David would get up and lift in the morning, go to basketball right after lifting and then take batting practice right after that and play in the evening,” Deal said. “For him to do that and excel in the classroom like he has is pretty amazing. We are lucky to have him in our program because he made us better.”
Deal said he can see the 6-foot-5, 190-pound sweet-swinging Watson, a three-year starter at first base for the Wizards, making an impact for the NCAA Division III Beavers’ baseball team right away.
“David will come and compete right away. I would be surprised if he’s not in the lineup from his freshman year on,” Deal said. “I think he’ll contribute offensively. I think he’ll be a first baseman for them. I think he’ll play right away. The school alone blows me away. Just the road that he took to get there, a three-sport athlete that never has a day off that can have a grade-point average like that.”
Academics, of course, comes first at Caltech. Baseball will be a way release from the classroom for Watson.
“I’ll be able to get a real good education and use baseball as a way to get away from school sometimes,” Watson said. “Baseball will be fun. It’s still college athletics. It’ll be competitive, but it’s not going to be the rigorous, two-a-days and all that kind of stuff. It seems like a good way to step back from school and have some fun. Everybody there is an athletic nerd like me.”