Johnny Watts was a star football player in high school and was offered scholarships to play football at Grambling and Florida A&M, but chose to join the US Air Force. He later attended Oregon State University. Watts started judo in 1966 and quickly became good enough to compete at the 1967 US Nationals. He was US Champion in the open class in 1972. He also competed at the 1970 CISM Games. Watts was coached by US judo legend [Ben Campbell].