Updated: Jul 16, 2021
NFL Retired Player, Benjamin Watson
Recovering Perfectionist Embraces Scripture and Receives a Gift of True Grace
Not every man can trace his spiritual awakening back to a moment with a giant teddy bear, but Benjamin Watson is unusual that way. He still remembers the moment when he was six years old and experienced firsthand a lesson from the Bible that has provided him with sustenance ever since.
“When I was a little kid, my family had this big teddy bear, about my size. Every other night or so, my dad would ask me if I wanted to fight the teddy bear. And I’d say yes, so he’d get behind the teddy bear and make the teddy bear box with me. He’d knock me down; then I’d get up swinging. Even then, I was so competitive and hated to lose. My dad tells me now that if I lost to the teddy bear, I’d go to bed screaming, “Daddy, you bring that teddy bear back out here! I’m not going to sleep until I beat the teddy bear!”
Finally, the 6-year-old Benjamin triumphed over the teddy bear. But his father, a pastor as well as a former college football player used it as a teaching moment, not just horseplay. “After I beat the teddy bear, my dad asked me if I knew what would happen to me if I were to die that night. He wanted me to understand that we all have a soul and we are all going to spend eternity in heaven or hell; this is not the end when we leave this world. When I said I didn’t really understand, he explained to me about the verse John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That was the moment that I first remember repenting for my sins and believing in what Christ did for me on the cross.”
Raised in a stable and loving two-parent home, Benjamin saw both parents strive unflaggingly to pass messages of faith on to their six children. But despite his many acknowledged blessings, Benjamin says one fatal flaw hung over his youth and persisted into his years as a pro football player: his own perfectionism.
Drafted by the New England Patriots in 2004, he initially thought he’d reached his life’s goal. “When they called my name, I thought I’d made it. I started out with the Patriots so excited to play, and then I tore my ACL. With that particular injury, you’re pretty much out for the whole year. I was so disappointed. I really felt like I let people down.”
He missed a big year in Patriots history, too. “That was in 2004, and the team won the the Super Bowl. I wasn’t able to play because of the ACL injury, and I just felt miserable. I had this bad attitude the whole week.”
In retrospect, Benjamin sees this as an example of a time when he was too inwardly focused. “At the time, I had the attitude that it was all about me. I felt like I was a failure because I couldn’t play.” Eventually, he would come to see the problem with that kind of thinking: he was over identifying with his job.
He now sees that 2004 season as the identifiable moment when he realized that his presence or absence in the Super Bowl did not define him as a person or even as a football player. It was a revelation that would be further underscored the following season, when he executed two of the most astounding plays that Patriots fans had ever seen, both occurring during the 2005 season playoffs. “That’s when I began to understand that your value and your worth aren’t tied up in what you do,” he says.
In 2009, he faced a huge struggle to hold on to his place with the Patriots. Speculation swirled that he would be cut from the team. But Benjamin surprised many fans by countering not with fear and defensiveness but with pure faith. As much as he wanted to stay with the team, he says he could hear his soul telling him to allow God to take control. Coping with that difficult issue made him fully acknowledge the reality that “football is what I do and not who I am,” he says. “Up until then, I knew it in my head but not truly in my heart.”
In the end, the Patriots kept him on for the 2009 season — the most enjoyable season of his career so far. ” We didn’t even go to the Super Bowl, but having finally recognized that I needed to stop worrying so much about stats and numbers and pleasing people, I felt so much more free.”
Today, he still struggles with his perfectionist tendencies, striving to find the balance between staying motivated and becoming obsessed with his own success. “God doesn’t require perfection from us. At the end of the day, I see so many guys who are struggling, feeling like life isn’t making any sense to them, and they wonder, ‘Is there more to life? Is the only reason that we’re here to make a lot of money and have a nice house and have nice cars and all that stuff?’ No, it’s not. It is about recognizing that God created us and God wants to have a relationship with us.”
Benjamin left the New England Patriots in 2010 to play for the Cleveland Browns and is now playing for the New Orleans Saints. In addition, he and his wife, Kirsten, founded a public charity called One More www.watsononemore.org, which Benjamin says is “devoted to spreading the love and hope of Christ to One More soul by meeting real needs, promoting education and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiatives and partnerships.” The foundation awarded its first college scholarship, named in honor of their daughter Grace.
With his lifelong beliefs in the wisdom of his parents and the grace of God, as well as his commitment to selfless living and demonstrating to followers that faith is far more important than materialism, Benjamin Watson embodies the principles of an Insightful Player® team member.
Instant replay of Benjamin’s guiding principles:
Question what you see around you rather than blindly complying with what others do. Be courageous in your quest for knowledge and understanding.
Have faith in God, and use that faith not only to make your own choices but to better understand the actions of others. Believe that whatever happens is according to God’s will.
Respect your parents and learn all you can from them.
Remember that the most important thing about you is your soul and spirit, not your job or your accomplishments.
Striving to be good at something is admirable, but obsessing over being perfect is a pitfall. Allow yourself to be imperfect.
Never let your fear of losing the game – whether in football or in life – keep you from enjoying what you are doing.
Remember that mistakes are something to learn from, not something to fear.
In times of adversity, hold on to your faith that there is a greater message and wisdom that the adversity will eventually reveal to you.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book, INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610.
©2010 Insightful Player, LLC
Benjamin Watson is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.