This past winter, NFL tight-end Benjamin Watson announced that he would be retiring from the game of football. Months later, when a door opened up with the New England Patriots, Watson announced that he would come out to play one more season.
In May, Watson failed a pre-season drug test for taking Bio-Identical Testosterone Cypionate, which was prescribed to him by doctors following his retirement to help heal his body and mind. At the time, he did not expect to return to the NFL.
But, he changed his mind and did return, which meant he was going to be in violation of breaking NFL league rules. Watson was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season.
In a recent op-ed for The Increase, Watson explained how he is using his suspension to teach his kids about three important things: integrity, perseverance, and the sovereignty of God.
Watson explained that following his failed drug test and suspension, he questioned whether playing through the season would be worth it. Although it was a performance drug taken when he was in retirement, he was worried about how his kids would view him.
“What would my family say and what questions would they have to answer?” he asked. “What about the guys in the locker room whom I had a positive impact on over the last 15 years?”
Watson explained that when he first received the news of the suspension, he took it as a sign.
“’Alright Lord, I guess this means I’m done,’” Watson wrote. “If I just stepped away from the game, it would all go away and no one would know.”
But when he consulted his wife, his dad, and a few close friends about retiring, they all told him: “Benjamin, if you have a desire to play, don’t let this be the reason you don’t.”
While the suspension was not ideal for Watson, he realized it was a great opportunity to talk to his children about tough subjects like “integrity, perseverance, God’s sovereignty and facing the consequences for your actions, intentional or not.”
“And this is an ongoing conversation we will have,” he added.
After he and his wife learned of the suspension, they sat the kids down in the living room, prayed, then explained the situation.
“So in our living room, we sat down together and prayed,” Watson wrote. “We prayed about how my statement would be received, we thanked the Lord for the opportunity I have to play football again, and we prayed that God’s will would be done no matter what would come of this.”
Watson shared vulnerably that his greatest fear in life is if he did something or said something that would bring shame on either the name of Christ or his family.
He shared that he feared that the guys who he had spent fifteen years mentoring, trying to speak wisdom into would think of him as a “charlatan.”
“Would my 15 years of longevity now be called into doubt because of this? I was really crushed by the whole thing, to be honest,” he wrote.
After much prayer and thought, Watson decided he would go forward with another year in the NFL, even if it meant a suspension. Furthermore, he decided to tell everyone what happened so that they would hear the truth from him first.
“I wanted them to hear the truth from me. It was important to me to respect the relationships I had built over the years and hear what they had to say. And when I did, I was overwhelmed by their responses. They let me know I was someone of worth. Knowing how I try to live my life, they told me they believed what I was telling them.”
The positive support that Watson reminded him of Proverbs 22:1, which says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
“We don’t earn such a name by our own power,” he wrote. “Yes, we have the choice to make good decisions or not, but it’s by God’s grace we’re able to. That is something to be proud of. It’s so easy to lose credibility and tarnish your reputation; we’re all one step away from stupid. And this was my fear as I chose to be honest.”
Watson shared that he hopes that this situation will point others to Christ, and not to his own doings.
“My goal of having a good name is to point others to the One who has the perfect name. I’m following Christ and aiming to become more and more like Him. There’s great purpose in pursuing a good name, but you can’t fall into the trap of wanting to earn pats on the back.”
“Yes, I’d rather this never happened, and I’m dreading the weeks I’ll have to sit out, but I can see God’s redemption of all situations and I’m thankful for the chance to be transparent, especially in my own home,” Watson shared.
In the future, when his kids look back on this situation, Watson hopes that they will have learned something about his character and his motive to honor Christ.
“Even though I’m far from perfect, I aim to represent Christ in every opportunity I’m given,” Watson concluded.