By Janet Goreham
Champ Bailey didn’t see it coming. Nobody did—except maybe Ken Watson. “Where is Benjamin?” Ken asked his wife as the two-inch Bailey sprinted across their television screen and down the length of INVESCO Field. It was the third quarter of the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos; Bailey had just picked off New England quarterback Tom Brady’s pass in the end zone—a throw meant for Troy Brown—and he was now sprinting the 100 yards toward the Pats’ end zone. “I know he’s going to be there!”
Ken Watson described his son Benjamin as a “flash” across the screen, a blur of a tight end who raced upfield in pursuit of Bailey. “I’d seen him do that before, so I knew he was going to be hustling,” Ken said. The play ended when Watson knocked Bailey out of bounds at the Patriot oneyard line.
No one had expected New England’s 6-3, 255-pound tight end to chase—let alone catch—the 6-0, 192-pound All-Pro cornerback, especially at Mile High Stadium.
Inevitably, Denver scored on the next play and went on to eliminate New England from the playoffs, nixing their chances for a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. But Watson’s display of hustle and determination on that famous interception has lived on, even to the point of impacting lives for eternity at FCA Camp.
Ken Watson, pastor of Rock Hill Bible Fellowship Church in Rock Hill, S.C., has created multiple sermons and devotions from that play and has shared them at FCA Camps and events across the country. “Benjamin always says, ‘Dad, you see a sermon in everything,’” joked Ken. “But to me, that play was kind of symbolic of the Christian life. The example was clear.”
If you ask Benjamin Watson, the oldest of six Watson children, he would tell you that he doesn’t know life apart from FCA. He can remember family vacations to two or three camps a summer, every summer growing up, where his dad would serve as chaplain. And when Watson grew older, he was able to participate as a camper.
“When I think about FCA and my history with it, it’s always a time with my whole family around,” he said. “My mom, dad and all six of us would get in the car and go [to camp]. I have fond memories of our family standing together in our faith and meeting new people who shared the same faith.”
One evening, Ken Watson came home from work after a week at camp to find his oldest son standing in the front yard surrounded by a group of neighborhood kids. “He was preaching to them, telling these kids about the Lord,” remembered Ken. “Basically he was telling the kids what he’d heard at FCA Camp. [The message] clicked with him.”
One of the reasons Ken brought his kids to camp year after year was because he knew they would be surrounded by people who loved the Lord and who were real in their faith. “My kids could go and see real guys who had struggled up and down; they could see models of the Christian life,” he explained. “I often tell my kids, when you go to FCA Camp, don’t just listen to the guys who are champions, talk to guys who are on the bench, because there are Christian guys on the bench who love the Lord just as much as the guys who have the Super Bowl rings.”
Ben Watson knows what it’s like to be on both sides of that scenario. Following a successful football career at the University of Georgia under Coach Mark Richt, Watson was drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2004 NFL draft. However, a month into his rookie season he suffered an ACL injury that sent him to the injured reserve.
Benjamin Watson #84
Weight: 255 lbs.
Years Pro: 4
Years with Patriots: 4
School: Univ. of Georgia
Born: Dec. 18, 1980
Family: Wife – Kirsten
What had seemed like a promising start to his NFL career—he’d seen action in three preseason games and started the season opener against Indianapolis—suddenly became discouraging. At the end of the 2004 season he was awarded the Super Bowl ring with the rest of the team, but Watson felt it would be inappropriate to wear it. He’d been injured for the majority of the season and had not played in the championship game. But as time passed, God showed Watson that he was a champion, regardless of whether he played in the game. He showed Watson how he could use his experience to teach kids about Jesus.
“I have a Super Bowl ring for a game that I didn’t play in, but I can still put it on and say I’m a champion because I’m part of the team,” he explained. “God did the same thing by sending Christ to die for us and make us a part of His team. He made us champions, even though we did nothing to deserve to be called champions.”
Watson often brings his wisdom and the experience of serving Christ in the NFL to kids in local FCA Huddles. In March 2006, he spoke at Rock Hill High School in South Carolina, his younger brother Asa’s school. The students participated in an after-school basketball tournament, and Watson stood up afterward and presented the gospel, sharing his faith
“Ben believes so much in what sports ministry can do through using the influence of athletes and coaches to reach people for Christ,” said South Carolina FCA Area Representative Courtney Blakely, who works closely with the Watson family on FCA events.
Through this, Watson also has been able to see that people will respect him because of his athletic platform. “Sports are amazing,” he said. “People listen to what you have to say simply because you’re an athlete. It’s awesome to use sports to promote the love of Christ, and for people to listen when they might not listen to anyone else.”
Watson says that FCA has helped him grow spiritually, not only through fellowship with other Christians, but also through sharing his faith publicly. “If you’ve ever done any speaking, it always helps you to grow when you give an account of what God has been teaching you,” he said. “It has definitely helped me to grow, especially in college when I spoke at the high schools.”
Ken Watson smiles when he sees his son living out his dream and God’s calling. When he asked him as a child what he wanted to be when he grew up, Watson answered: “A football player and a missionary.”
“I was watching him preach to the kids in Jamaica when he and I took a mission trip last month,” recalled Ken, “and I said to myself, the prayer has been answered.”
*For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Photos courtesy New England Patriots