Sammy Watkins said being given the key to the city will mean a lot to him and show how far he’s come in his journey from South Fort Myers High to Clemson.
But his NFL journey has just begun. Picked No. 4 by the Buffalo Bills, Watkins will fly out Tuesday to begin training camp.
Before that, he’ll be honored Friday night along with other past local athletes in the Southwest Florida Sports Banquet n’ Ball at City Pier, formerly Art of the Olympians.
Tickets remain available at $35, $50 and $75.
“You can do great things,” Watkins said. “You can turn great things out of bad things. I grew up in a bad area but I didn’t use that as an excuse. It’s all up to me or another person, what they want to do.”
Fort Myers mayor Randy Henderson, who’ll personally present Watkins with the key to the city, said honoring past local athletes is something that’s overdue.
“I don’t know if we’ve been real great as a city or community at recognizing high talent,” Henderson said. “There’s so much talent in this region. When I reflect back 30 years, to have an opportunity to highlight such outstanding achievement, it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t pause for a moment.”
Fred Stevens, executive director of the James Brunson Youth Development Foundation, Inc., is the event coordinator. He said this event also will raise money for youths who want to attend college while bringing attention to the violence that has been happening in the Fort Myers community, which has led to the deaths of a number of youths.
“What’s most important is to show my community and the city of Fort Myers that despite where I came from, I can be an inspiration to all young women and men,” said Anthony Henry, who is flying from Los Angeles to be at the event. “I feel blessed to come out of those situations.”