Former Taft High player graduates this May

Now that his collegiate football career is over, former Taft High standout Dalton Botts is casting an eye toward the NFL.

In fact, the NFL draft April 25-27, along with his studies, will be his only focus as he heads into his final semester at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.

"When I get back, I'll talk to the coaches about the process," he said Thursday morning while working out in Samson's Gym, which is owned and operated by his parents, Travis and Andrea Botts.

Actually, his mom said, he was working out more to keep warm than anything else.

"It's cold here," he said. "I'm not used to this."

Several NFL teams have shown an interest in him. And, an agent in southern California contacted him this week.

He's on track to graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in criminology with a minor in communications, but the NFL is foremost in his mind.

"The only thing I'm worrying about right now is focusing on the NFL," Botts said. "After the draft I'll have time left to think about what I'm going to do (about a career)."

If the pros don't offer him a job he'll look at a career in criminology.

Botts is hoping NFL scouts were aware he didn't get as many opportunities for booming punts this year due largely to the fact the Hurricanes had a better offense and he was called upon to do a lot of "pooch" punts from near midfield.

"When your offense does well and you are kicking near or on the other side of the 50 (yard line) you get things like 32-yard punts to the 2-yard line."

He punted 54 times during the just-completed season and averaged 40.5 yards per kick, a little below his 42.7 in 2011. His career numbers are 104 punts for a 41-yard average.

His longest punt this season was 56 yards and his shortest 28 in the season finale when a gust of wind caught the ball just as he kicked it. He had four kicks over 50 yards.

Of his 54 punts, 23 were inside the 20-yard line. Few of his punts were returned.

Botts is doing well in the classroom. He earned a 3.4 grade point average in the fall semester and has but one course remaining in his major.

The rest of his courses are electives – "fluff" classes as he calls them.

He's taking pottery and dance.

Maybe he should have considered drama. Might come in handy as a punter – you know, acting like you've been mugged when a rusher brushes past you.

Botts has enjoyed his time in Coral Gables.

Miami is a prestigious private university, and the weather's not bad.

But being so far away from home was an eye-opener.

"It was a huge change in reality," he said. "You definitely experience a lot of new things. You have to pick and choose what you like and what you don't.

One of the things he liked was rooming with star running back Mike James in a campus apartment.

"That was a lot of fun."

He was well fed during football season, but in the off-season "I have to do a little grocery shopping."

For now, he's going to enjoy mom's home cooking, visiting with family and friends and staying in shape.

Then, it's back to the golden beaches, hitting the books and hoping the football gods smile on him come the end of April.