Dantzler’s hobby fits UGA lineman’s style, personality

With a truck bed filled with recycled pallet wood and a handful of power tools, Watts Dantzler works like a nimble Christmas elf. Standing at 6 feet 7, Georgia’s largest offensive lineman looks more like Paul Bunyan.

“It keeps us up at night, that’d be the first thing,” said Georgia center David Andrews, one of Dantzler’s roommates.

When he’s not isolated in a friend’s Athens barn, Dantzler crafts custom wood pieces on the back porch he shares with Andrews, offensive lineman Hunter Long and former fullback Merritt Hall.

Hours after Georgia football practices had ended, fellow offensive lineman Greg Pyke could hear the sawing and carving and drilling. The sounds of rigorous woodwork greeted Pyke as he return home to their neighborhood after long evenings of tutoring.

“I live across from him in the Station,” Pyke said, “so I hear him over there all the time, all night long.”

Dantzler picked up his woodworking talents while watching his late father, Danny, build and repair as a carpenter. Danny Dantzler, a former Bulldog himself, died of ALS five years ago. A youth spent observing his father materialized in high school when Watts Dantzler tried carpentry himself and built a bed.

Then Georgia football happened. The restraints of a college football schedule did not hold Dantzler back; that he could work around. But the dorms were not conducive to a 320-pound man with an affinity for carpentry. Once he moved off campus, the building opportunities abounded. Dantzler built another bed — a lofted one.

Some six months ago, tables and dressers became the furniture du jour. With the addition of a few more tools, “Donzles Custom Wood” as Dantzler coined it on Instagram, was up and running.

“It gives me something to do instead of just watching Netflix for five hours,” he said.

Dantzler built Hall a bed with recycled pallets and cedar trimming. He built a TV stand emblazoned with the Georgia ‘G’ for former center Preston Mobley. He, with the help of long snapper Nathan Theus, built an intricate table, equipped with a hidden cooler, shelving and the Atlanta Braves ‘A’. He built coffee tables and wine racks and carved and painted pieces to hang like art. Andrews said he might have to commission a piece for himself sooner or later.

“It’s not manual labor,” Dantzler said.

Hitting a sled in practice must really redefine one’s idea of manual labor.

But perhaps it’s because carpentry is more play than it is work to Dantzler. It’s just another form in which he can channel some of his copious creativity.

“It runs in his family,” Andrews said. “His brother designs video games. They’re a very smart family and they’ve got this cool, creative side to them.”

Dantzler’s creativity has been recognized in the past. Last year, Sports Illustrated named him to its annual Twitter 100 list of sports personalities to follow. Although his eccentricities have been subject to praise, having 13,751 Twitter followers never brought in a dime. As a carpenter, Dantzler can channel his passions into profit.

He put his contact information on Instagram and is taking clients. “Shoot me an email if you want something made,” his profile’s bio reads. The comments from fans and followers are supportive and Dantzler has already received requests for pieces via email.

Dantzler hasn’t established a carpentry career plan just yet. For now, his woodworking remains a hobby, and a hands-on way to give gifts this holiday season.

Presents require lumber of higher quality than the pallets he finds around town. For the men in his family, Dantzler used walnut and maple wood to craft cutting boards during the few days off the Bulldogs had before reporting to Charlotte, N.C., for the Belk Bowl. He made a gift for his mother, Jean. His girlfriend will also receive something handmade.

Needless to say, Santa’s largest elf tended to a lengthy list during the last couple of weeks. Pyke could certainly hear him.

“He’s building Noah’s Ark over there,” Pyke said.