Benjamin Watson Doing More Off the Field Than On It

On the surface, success has been something that has persistently followed Benjamin Watson. He has been an All-SEC selection, a NFL first round draft pick and a Super Bowl champion.  He has caught passes from certain first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees.  In his time with the Cleveland Browns, Watson was the team’s leader in receptions.  When the vast majority of NFL careers are three years or less, Watson will begin the 2014 season as an 11 year NFL veteran.

Yet, things have not always been easy for Watson during his NFL tenure.  “In my first 5 years in the league I had five different surgeries,” Watson says.  “Being injured was very isolating.  I felt alone and I felt like I wasn’t contributing on the field.”  Watson was finally able to get his injuries under control and had a very successful three year stretch with the Cleveland Browns.  Benjamin played well on the field and matured as a family man and deepened his faith off the field alongside his teammates.  Things seemed to be going according to plan.

And then the Browns chose not to re-sign him.  Benjamin was able to sign with the New Orleans Saints but a new reality was about to set in.  Signing with the Saints meant that he’d be a backup to Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham.  “For the first time in my career there was no longer a plan to get me the ball.  I had to play a role now,” Benjamin tells me.  “You get slapped in the face so many times in this league that you have to find your identity outside of it.”

That is what success is defined by in Benjamin Watson’s life.  It is not defined by the logo on his helmet, his total number of NFL starts, catches, touchdowns, playoff wins or Super Bowl rings.  “We were designed to work,” he offers.  “Yet, our work was never designed to be who we are totally.”  Who Benjamin Watson is begins and ends with who Jesus Christ is.  It is the work of Christ and His grace through which Benjamin finds his joy, hope and security in.  No NFL paycheck or career highlight can provide that.

Benjamin became a Christian at the age of 5 when his father, who is a pastor, shared with his son the beauty of John 3:16 one night while they were sitting on Benjamin’s bed.  “Right there,” Watson says, “I repented of my sins and put my faith in Jesus.  He was the payment for my sins that I could not pay myself.”  From then on, Watson grew in his faith.  There were struggles at times, especially in dealing with the pressure to be perfect with everything he did.  Yet,  as he matured in his faith he realized he was saved by grace and not through his own perfect works, much like Ephesians 2:8-9 reads.  “I realized I had to accept my failures so that I can accept His grace,” Watson says.

Benjamin has a heart to extend that same grace to those in need through his foundation called The Watson 7 Foundation.  At the core of One More, Benjamin and his wife Kirsten desire to spread the hope and love of Christ through meeting the real needs of people.  Benjamin realizes he has been given a unique opportunity to share the gospel with others just because of what he does.  Yet, being a New Orleans Saint does not make Benjamin Watson, being a saint in Jesus Christ means everything to him.