While checking his voicemail, Ben Watson felt a rush of excitement upon hearing the voice of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Frank Reich. Images of being a 13-year-old and watching Reich engineer the greatest comeback in NFL history flashed through Watson’s mind. Reich had reached out to inform him that he had been chosen to receive the distinguished Call to Courage Award.
Watson had grown up hearing about Frank Reich’s Christian faith and character from his father, Ken, who played linebacker at the University of Maryland several years before Reich entered the college ranks as the Terps’ quarterback. Now, his childhood hero was acknowledging Watson’s Christian faith and character by presenting him with the award that was created in honor of Reich’s own walk of faith.
When Ben learned that he would be standing in the company of his friends Don Davis and Heath Evans as a fellow Call to Courage Award recipient, he felt especially privileged to be categorized with these two men who have had a great spiritual impact on his life. After Watson was drafted by New England in the first round in 2004, Davis and Evans became instrumental in helping him to grow in his Christian walk and develop as a leader.
Ben says what makes this award so special to him is that “it is not directly related to football.” He explains, “Football accolades are great, but this award has more to do with life.”
Watson’s comment is indicative of a man who refuses to allow his number of receptions and touchdowns to define him; instead, his character, service and leadership will. This is a man who looks beyond the fleeting riches and fading applause and on to his call to lead, serve and live differently than many of his colleagues. He is a man who takes seriously the tremendous platform he’s been given.
The quiet consistency of Ben Watson’s life was honored on March 24, when he was presented with the 2012 Call to Courage Award. When asked what made Watson the prime candidate, co-founder Fred Raines responded, “I was impressed with Ben’s leadership and maturity.” In addition to Watson’s leadership on and off the field, Raines also took into consideration what the Browns organization thought of him.
Watson expresses a great appreciation for being recognized for his efforts to live a life that is pleasing to God, although he readily admits he’s “a person who is very imperfect.” It is this type of humility that lends to the character traits that define all Call to Courage Award recipients.
Frank Reich and Buffalo Bills chaplain Fred Raines created the Call to Courage Award 11 years ago. Reich best describes the qualifications for the award in the inscription he wrote, which appears on each trophy:
“The Call to Courage Award is given to an athlete who displays exemplary character through adversity and triumph. At the heart of his character is a commitment to Jesus Christ that is reflected in every aspect of his life. On and off the field he is an impact player who brings out the best in those around him. His pursuit of excellence in every area of his life is inspiring. He does not view his many achievements as a platform for personal gain; rather, out of humility, he sees them as an opportunity to serve the community and the world to the glory of God.”
Past Call to Courage Award Winners:
London Fletcher 2011
Heath Evans 2010
John Kasay 2009
Kurt Warner 2008
Chad Pennington 2007
Don Davis 2006
Jon Kitna 2005
Curtis Martin 2004
Bob Christian 2003
Trent Dilfer 2002
NFLPA RECOGNIZES WATSON’S LEADERSHIP
Raines and Reich aren’t the only ones who took notice of Watson’s leadership skills. On the same weekend he received the Call to Courage Award he was also elected to the NFLPA’s executive committee. Watson calls his new position “quite an honor,” not because he receives a title of vice president but because he gets to offer his leadership and service to the entire league.
Some of Watson’s goals in this new position include educating players about health, safety and finances. A finance major from the University of Georgia, he has a heart to help players to understand the importance of taking care of their finances early in their career as opposed to waiting toward the end.
To Watson, leadership is more than being up front. “Look at Jesus. Jesus was a great leader and a great servant,” he explains.
Watson prefers to be behind the scenes but as his gift of leadership has become more recognized, he is coming to grips with God’s plan to use him in the forefront as well. Still, his mode of operation will continue to be emulating Christ and being a servant.
Ben Watson uses this same servant-leader attitude to operate his charity, One More, which 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 initiative and partnerships. When I asked Watson what he wanted others to know about his charity, to my surprise he said he wanted readers to know: “I don’t have it all together and we need help and prayer like everyone else.” Watson desires to take his 501(c)3 to the next level and he welcomes your help to do it. To learn more about One More and how you can partner with them, log on to www.WatsonOneMore.org.
On behalf of sports fans young and old, who grow weary of the emphasis on irresponsibility and scandal surrounding NFL players, thank you, Ben Watson, for answering the call to courage by living your life in a way that models genuine character and a lifestyle which is honorable and true to your faith.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Is there a particular pro athlete you’d like me to interview about his faith? How has this story impacted you? To submit suggestions and comments, please contact me through www.KimAnthony.net or follow me on Twitter @RealKimAnthony. I’d love to hear from you!
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