By Bryan Dietzler
The National Football League is full of different kinds of players. You have those players that are controversial, such as Colin Kapernick and Brandon Marshall (yes both of them). There are the very good guys, like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Then you have some of the “characters” like former stars Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens.
Everyone in the NFL is unique. That’s what makes it fun.
But there is one player in the NFL that represents solid play on the field and great humanity off of it. Not enough has been written about this player and he deserves his due.
That player is Ben Watson.
So, let’s sit back and learn about one of the more polarizing players both on and mostly off the field in the NFL.
Ben Watson was born on December 18, 1980. He went to Northwestern High School in the town of Rock Hill, South Carolina. He won plenty of honors and awards in school but one in particular that he won that is fun to point out is his being honored as his high school’s Student of the Year.
Watson was not only a football player in school but he was a track star and excelled at sprinting. He was an excellent all-around athlete in high school and it would transfer to the college game.
Ben went to college at Duke University to start where he played tight end. After a year there, he decided to go to the University of Georgia because he preferred their system and how they used tight ends. Unfortunately for Watson, Georgia did no utilize their tight ends as often as he might have liked. He had a total of 65 catches for 852 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons at Georgia.
The NFL Draft came calling and Watson had some pretty impressive numbers to help cement him as one of the top players in the 2004 NFL draft. He had a 4.53 40-yard dash and had 34 repetitions on the bench press. His most outstanding pre-draft number had to be his score on the Wonderlic test. Watson scored the third highest score in the history of the test (in pre-draft testing).
When the draft came, Watson was thought to be a first round talent. He had the potential and it was figured that there were a few teams looking for a good tight end in that year’s draft. He looked like a sure first rounder.
The first round of the 2004 NFL draft went on and Watson was not getting selected. It looked as if he might slip into the second round. But picking at the 32nd spot in that year’s draft were the New England Patriots. They didn’t let Watson get away and they took him with their first round pick.
Unfortunately for both the Patriots and Watson, he spent a better part of his time in his first year, injured. He took a snap in just one game that year. He did, however, get a Super Bowl ring as New England went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL’s title game.
Watson’s stay in New England was injury riddled. He played six seasons there but started in just 47 games. His most productive season came in 2007 when he snagged six touchdown passes.
The Patriots and Watson parted ways in 2010. In March of that year he signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns. Watson had a successful first season in Cleveland leading the team in several receiving categories.
The three year contract that Watson signed with the Browns ran out in 2013 and he was not re-signed. He went to New Orleans as a free agent in March of that year on another three year deal. Watson had a pretty nice career with the Saints. He was even named team an offensive captain in 2015. Watson had some standout performances as well and was named a Pro Bowl alternate as a Saint.
One of his shining moments as a player in the National Football League came in 2015 as he was named one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award (the other two finalists were Eli Manning and Anquan Boldin). Boldin won it the honor.
He was also a finalist for the Byron Wizzer White award which is the NFLPA’s Man of the Year Award.
This past March, Watson signed a two year deal with the Baltimore Ravens for seven million dollars. It will probably be the final contract he gets in the NFL.
But his season ended early after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the preseason. He is on injured reserve for the entire 2016 season.
Watson still plans to play football again next season but it may be his last year.
While Watson has been on injured reserve, he has been very vocal about the social state of the country. We won’t get into his individual comments here but if you take a look online at some of the things that Watson has said, you will see that he has some interesting opinions.
But we are here to talk about some of the off the field accomplishments that Watson has been involved in. Remember it was mentioned that he was a Walter Payton Man of the Year award finalist. What did he do to earn that honor? What is he doing yet today to serve his community?
Watson did a lot of his work in the city of New Orleans when he was with the Saints. He helped out in a community that needed a lot of help. Economic depression post Hurricane Katrina had affected a lot of people and Watson wanted to help as much as he could.
His “Watson One More” foundation had a religious basis to it and helped other charities in the area or did its own charity work.
Ben was named as one of CNN’s Most Extraordinary People of the Year (2014). He was a real asset to the community of New Orleans and had a big impact on the town while he was there.
Watson took part in many team related events with other Saints players. He also assisted in NFL driven projects. Ben dedicated his time to domestic violence shelters and helped others with meals and faith based projects in the New Orleans community.
Watson also puts on youth football camps and is always vocal about the state of our country.
Another organization he has been involved in before is the All Pro Dad campaign. This is a foundation that helps fathers become better dads and better family leaders.
Watson has been on the NFLPA’s executive committee involving himself directly in player/team relations.
There is a book written by Watson called Under Our Skin. The book talks about issues currently facing our country and he gives his views on things that people are struggling with today. There are several current events covered in this book.
Watson and his wife Kristen have participated in many of his ventures together. Kristen was an athlete in her own right participating in several different sports.
If Watson’s NFL future might be a little cloudy due to his age and recent injury, his future as a philanthropist and community “giver” is bright. He has proven that he is really one of the NFL’s good guys. He is someone that has taken his fame and fortune and put it to good use.
Here is to a good guy both on and off the field.