Meet the Big 3: Klein Forest’s National Recruits trio has put Golden Eagles back on the map
HOUSTON – When college coaches walk through the pair of glass doors leading into the Klein Forest fieldhouse, they know who they are there to see.
Third-year Golden Eagles coach Johnathan Wilson knows too.
“I call them the Big 3,” Wilson said with a smile.
The three that he is referring to is Class of 2023 prospects in defensive end Brad Spence and running back Parker Jenkins and then Class of 2024 product Jelani Watkins at receiver.
Since the Class of 2022 recruiting cycle ended in February, the recruitment of Klein Forest’s newly minted “Big 3” has exploded.
According to 247 Sports the trio has a combined to garner 71 college football offers as of April 28 with more on the way.
“I’ve been enjoying it,” Spence said. “It’s a new experience and something I’ve always dreamed of. As a kid I always wanted the big scholarships and go through the recruiting process. I was prepped for it because my dad went through it, so he gave me the ins and outs of it.”
Jenkins added: “It has been crazy talking to tons of coaches, my phone has been blowing up. Sometimes I have to step away from it to let me just take it all in. Then I go back to texting coaches and stuff. It is enjoyable but it can be overwhelming.”
The list of offers is impressive.
It is one that includes LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Texas Tech, Florida State, Arkansas, Missouri and Houston to name a few. Power 5 programs from the Big 12, SEC and the Big 10 all on the other end of the line.
“I did not expect this buzz to happen [so quick],” Wilson said. “What we try to do as a coaching staff is to constantly promote our program with social media. Try to be the new up and coming program in the city of Houston. Luckily we have had good players to back that.
“It does wonders for the rest of the program. Those young guys, like the 2025s and 2026s, they see Texas is there, A&M is coming to the school. This guy got this offer and that offer. So, it gives them goals and real aspirations that they feel like they can reach now because the guy in the same locker room got that offer. They feel it.”
The buzz around the halls of Klein Forest is palpable, which hasn’t been the case in recent years when it came to the football program.
Prior to Wilson’s arrival, Klein Forest was going winless, suffering 1-9 seasons and not producing recruits in this quantity. You have to go back to the early 2000s when Matthew Davis donned the green and gold to find a big name.
Since Wilson arrived, the program went 1-7 in the first season in 2020 but then pieced together a 5-5 mark in 2021 – the most wins since 2011.
With the wins and success on the field has brought with it the buzz around the Big 3 of Watkins, Jenkins and Spence as they aim to put Klein Forest firmly back on the map and a must-stop for every college recruiter in the nation.
“A couple of years ago Klein Forest was nowhere to be found,” Jenkins said. “So with us three putting them back on the map, it is just a good feeling.”
Spence added: “It is crazy that I was a part of that. As it was rising, I was like this is really happening. It was crazy to go through that phase with Coach Wilson. We’re putting them back on the map. We have the [motto] going of ‘Change the Culture’, so we’re building the culture from the ground up.”
📍Klein Forest HS
In 2010 it was Matt Davis … in 2022 meet The Big 3 of @BradSpence_ @laaared1 and @NewEra_PJ3 #txhsfb #recruiting pic.twitter.com/2XtcaZmxrw
— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) April 27, 2022
What has also come with the Big 3 being recruited really together, most of the time each of them getting offered by the same college on the same day, is a tighter bond.
This past weekend, Watkins, Jenkins and Spence pulled up to Klein Forest High on Saturday morning at 5 am to jump into Wilson’s truck so he could drive them to Baton Rouge for LSU’s spring game.
“It was awesome, it was a once in a lifetime experience,” Wilson said. “I have never been to LSU. They really showed us a lot of love and attention. They basically rolled out the red carpet for us. The kids really enjoyed themselves. It was a good bonding experience for us too as coaches and players. We got a chance to hang out with our guys, took pictures and enjoyed the experience.”
The trip was uniquely special for Watkins, who was born in Louisiana.
“It was great, I hadn’t been there in a minute,” he said. “When I went back, I was happy. Then the craziest thing happened. We were talking about Tyrann Mathieu and then out of nowhere he just appeared. I froze up.”
After the day was over, everyone piled back into Wilson’s truck and they made the trek back to Houston.
Wilson, who in his previous job served as the recruiting coordinator, is all about getting his guys recruited. Whether that be calling and emailing coaches or even driving them to camps and visits when their parents can’t.
Wilson is all-in on these Golden Eagles’ future and they players see it.
“That just shows that it means a lot to him for us going to be going to college,” Spence, who Wilson drove to Austin for his visit with the Longhorns where he was eventually offered, said. “Some coaches, they don’t go all the way for their players. So, it shows he really cares about us and has a brotherhood relationship.”
Watkins added: “It means a lot because it shows that he cares about us. He’ll do anything to get me to that college for a visit or something.”
As the trio has gotten even closer over the past months, Jenkins and Spence growing on their natural relationship of being cousins and then Watkins being brought into the mix, they are tighter than ever.
Jenkins and Watkins also run on the track team in the 4x100-meter relay together. Watkins also is a part of the 4x200 relay, which owns the fastest time in the country to date and has also broken school records in the 200-meter dash. Jenkins has excelled at the 100-meter dash also.
So, from family ties, to handing off a baton to one another and then taking long car rides to colleges all over the country, the Big 3 are becoming closer than ever.
“It’s grown a lot,” Watkins said. “Last year, we didn’t really speak that much. This year we’ve really had a brotherly connection.”
With the rise in wins on the field and now the success in the recruiting world, Wilson – who is a Klein Forest graduate himself – is seeing the that they are on the way back up.
Which is right where he wants his program to go.
“We want to be back relevant,” Wilson said. “We preach to our kids that we haven’t been to the playoffs in 10 years. We could be the group that turns this thing around. We’re hanging our hat on that this season.”
For the players, like Jenkins who enters his senior campaign this fall, their goals are aligned with coach’s aspirations.
At the end of the day, they want to leave Klein Forest in a spot of upward trajectory that the classes after them will continue to grow on.
“The goal is to win State but if we just make it to the playoffs that’s another building block added,” Jenkins said. “Yes, we want to win State but we can also build on that for Jelani and the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025 to go on and win State.
“So, it is about building a legacy at the school.”