Saints TE Ben Wat­son, re­tir­ing at sea­son’s end, leaves his mark on and off the field

The Catoosa County News - - SPORTS - By Rod Walker [email protected]­vo­cate.com

Ben Wat­son has done a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing in his 15 sea­sons in the NFL. He’s won a Su­per Bowl.

He’s caught passes from both Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

He’s bap­tized team­mates in the train­ing pool at the Saints’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity.

He’s fought for causes deal­ing with so­cial jus­tice.

He’s a hus­band with five kids and a set of twins on the way.

He’s writ­ten a book about race re­la­tions and an­other on fa­ther­hood.

The book on his NFL ca­reer, though, is now in its fi­nal chap­ter

The Saints tight end con­firmed this past Thurs­day he’s re­tir­ing at the end of the sea­son. He made the an­nounce­ment to the me­dia shortly af­ter an eight­minute video was re­leased by NFL Films about Wat­son and his fam­ily.

“It’s some­thing you al­ways think about through­out your ca­reer,” Wat­son said. “I knew com­ing into this year that it prob­a­bly would be the last year.”

Wat­son, who turned 38 on Dec. 18, en­tered the league in 2004 as a firstround draft choice of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

He came to the Saints in 2013 and spent three sea­sons in New Or­leans. He re­turned to the Saints this sea­son, where he has caught 33 passes for 371 yards and two touch­downs in help­ing the Saints earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That No. 1 seed guar­an­tees Wat­son at least one more game in the MercedesBenz Su­per­dome as the Saints will host a play­off game on Jan. 12 or 13.

Wat­son isn’t sure of what’s next af­ter the sea­son ends.

“That’s the ex­cit­ing part about it, also the scary part of it for all of us when we go through this sort of tran­si­tion,” Wat­son said. “You just don’t know what doors are go­ing to open and what doors are go­ing to close. I would have never thought I would be (back) here (in New Or­leans). God saw fit for me to play an­other year and be a part of this com­mu­nity and this team.”

Wat­son would like noth­ing more than to end his ca­reer the same way he started it: with a Su­per Bowl ring. He was on New Eng­land’s Su­per Bowl team as a rookie when the Pa­tri­ots won Su­per Bowl XXXIX. But he says the time felt right for him to call it quits.

“You kind of know,” Wat­son said. “You hope you get to exit on your own terms. You hope you get to exit with a great win. It’s been great to be a part of this team and have this sort of win­ning at this point in my ca­reer. But the in­juries add up. The body strug­gles more and more and it be­comes ev­i­dent that it’s time. It’s al­ways a very hard thing. My men­tal­ity has al­ways been to per­form to the best of my abil­ity and fight through dif­fer­ent things and set­backs. But with my wife and kids, we have def­i­nitely de­cided this is the last one.”

Wat­son has caught 528 passes for 5,856 yards and 44 touch­downs in his ca­reer. He caught Brees’ 500th ca­reer touch­down pass in Oc­to­ber against the Bal­ti­more Ravens. The Ravens hap­pen to be one of five teams Wat­son has suited up for. He spent his first six years with New Eng­land, and then went to Cleve­land be­fore com­ing to New Or­leans. Then he went to Bal­ti­more be­fore re­turn­ing to the Saints this year.

“Be­ing se­lected a cap­tain of the team was prob­a­bly the high­light of my ca­reer,” Wat­son said about his first stint with the Saints. “Get­ting to wear that ‘C’ (on my jersey) here in the city.”

But Wat­son doesn’t want to be re­mem­bered just for the passes he caught or the guy he was in the locker room. He also wants to be re­mem­bered for who he is away from the field.

For the two-time fi­nal­ist for the NFL’S Man of the Year Award, the num­bers on his Twit­ter bio are just as im­por­tant to him as the ones he pro­duced on the field.

“El­dest of 6. Fa­ther of 5. Ath­lete of 4. Ser­vant of 3. Son of 2. Hus­band of 1.”

“I want my legacy to be some­body who loved his wife and some­body who loved his kids and tried to lead his fam­ily,” Wat­son said. “And en­cour­aged other guys that they have what it takes to be the men that they’re called to be.” But he didn’t stop there.

“I hope my legacy is that I tried to make ev­ery place bet­ter that I went to and that I grew as a player and as an ad­vo­cate and as a cit­i­zen as my time went on. I want peo­ple to be drawn and to look at the Lord when I do cer­tain things.”

Wat­son will put on his No. 82 black and gold jersey at least two more times, although he’s hop­ing to wear it four more. Then he’ll move on to what­ever is next. “I do know that when­ever there seems to be an un­known, God con­tin­ues to open a door that we may not have ex­pected,” Wat­son said. “While I know this long chap­ter is com­ing to a close, I’m ex­cited for what’s go­ing to hap­pen although I don’t know what that’s go­ing to be.”

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