Milton High graduate Corliss Waitman is getting a long-awaited shot in the National Football League.
Waitman signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday upon the completion of the 2020 NFL Draft.
The left-footed punter began his college career at South Alabama before transferring to Mississippi State in 2019. He was forced to sit out his final college season, however, as the NCAA denied his appeal for a sixth year of collegiate eligibility.
“I had a couple hiccups with the NCAA not clearing my sixth medical year when I only played two games that season,” Waitman said. “It seemed like a no-brainer to get that year back, but I had a couple hiccups, so it was kind of a choice as to whether I’d keep pushing or do something else.”
Push he did.
Mississippi State kept Waitman on scholarship, allowing him to train with the SEC football program despite being ineligible to play.
Waitman said he added the adversity of losing an opportunity to play in the SEC to a long list – including torn ACLs and losses in his family – of motivating factors in his hopeful NFL career.
It helped that the former All-Sun Belt performer had earned a reputation for big kicks in nervy situations on top of his appealing athleticism and left-footed spin.
“A lot of scouts said they liked that I came through in big situations where you needed a big punt,” Waitman said. “It’s a situational role so sometimes you can get away with a bad punt. But if you’re backed up and it’s tied, you have to flip the field.”
Waitman is the second kicker/punter from Santa Rosa County to earn a shot in the NFL after former Pace kicker Ryan Santoso made his debut with Tennessee Titans last year.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Waitman and Santoso are close: The Santa Rosa duo has been training together in Birmingham, Alabama, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re like brothers. We’re really tight,” Waitman said. “I always pick his brain because he’s a step ahead of me and he’s been with teams. He’ll definitely be in the NFL soon, I believe.
Eric J. Wallace can be reached at email@example.com or 850-525-5087.