With 15 years of experience with the NFL, Saints tight end Benjamin Watson is a veteran player who takes his leadership job seriously. A Saint from 2013 to 2015, he returns to the team after spending two years with the Baltimore Ravens, and is ready to hit the ground running.
While Watson is passionate about his job on the field, he is equally, perhaps even more so, passionate about his volunteer activities off the field. He has traveled with the USO to visit troops in Iraq and Pakistan; he hosts “The Big BENefit” each year, an event that provides holiday gift cards to local families in need; is active in the International Justice Mission, which works to end human trafficking; and has published two books, “Under Our Skin: Getting Real on Race,” which tackles social justice, bias, and racial relations, and “The New Dad’s Playbook,” which provides his unique take on fatherhood.
Watson took some time to answer New Orleans Magazine’s get-to-know-you inquiries, but, for us, one question remains: is there anything this Saint can’t do?
Q: How old were you when you started playing football? When I was a kid we used to play football in the street with tackling in the sideline (where there was a strip of grass). I played one year of youth football and my dad was my coach. Then I didn’t play organized football again until I was 14 in 9th grade.
Q: What does it mean to you to be back in New Orleans with the Saints? I’m thankful for another year to play in the NFL. It has been a long journey with many unexpected twists and turns. I’ve learned to cherish each year and embrace the challenges they bring. We enjoyed being a part of this city while we were here previously and it has been great to reconnect and rekindle those relationships. The Saints are a different team in many ways than the last time but there are a few familiar faces. This will be an exciting year.
Q: Off the field, what does volunteering with your organization One More mean for you? I believe that each of us has the ability to be a blessing to someone else in some way. When we take our time talent or treasure to do that we make an investment not only in that individual’s life, but in the lives of countless others that will be impacted through them. We can always spread love and hope to “One More” soul. We consider it a privilege and responsibility to be involved in the communities where God has placed us and we hope to leave a legacy of kindness that extends long after we are gone.
Q: What was the motivation behind writing your book “Under Our Skin?” “Under Our Skin” was an extension of a Facebook post I wrote after witnessing the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. I wrote about the many emotions I was feeling as I witnessed the events and reactions unfold. I believe we were all affected in some way. After an overwhelming response to the post from people of all ethnicities and economic backgrounds, I started to unpack and address our nation’s continuing struggle with race and all of its implications. Since our birth as a nation, race has been a defining factor in so many facets of life. And while relations have improved we still have more victories to claim, mountains to climb and conversations to have. Thankfully there are many people who are willing to engage, listen and do this work together. I believe we are one blood and we ought to treat each other with this truth in mind. Through “Under Our Skin” I wanted to give an honest assessment of the racial climate in America, as well as a challenge for all of us to engage in the conversations and actions needed to improve it.
Q: How do you stay motivated as a player during the football season? As much as I have enjoyed football throughout my life it is definitely a grind. Sunday’s are only the tip of the iceberg. There are times when the body or the mind (or both) struggles to continue. I stay motivated because for all of us football is not a hobby, it is our job. It is how we provide for our families, but most importantly it is how we glorify the God who has given us the opportunity to play. Taking the focus off of me and thinking about these things gives me proper perspective and the will to give my very best whether I feel like it or not.
Q: Is there anyone that has inspired or motivated you in life and/or on the field? My father has always been my hero. Growing up I wanted to be like him. Even today he is the standard for manhood in my life and the one I seek to emulate.
Q: What has been your favorite moment as a player? My favorite moment as a player dates back to 2002 when we, the Georgia Bulldogs, won the SEC championship for the first time in 20 years. It was a special time and a team I’ll never forget.
AT A GLANCE
Born/Raised: Norfolk, Va
Education (college): University of Georgia (Duke as a freshman)
Favorite movie(s): Rudy, Glory, Black Panther
Favorite music: Gospel
Favorite food: Gumbo (made by Kirsten Watson)
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere as a family