During his 16 seasons in the National Football League, tight end Benjamin Watson competed against some of the most formidable opponents ever to step on the gridiron.
But in mid-March, when he announced his retirement as a New England Patriot, the same team that drafted him in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, Benjamin didn’t reference any of his many accomplishments, which include a Super Bowl championship, nearly 550 receptions for more than 6,000 yards and 44 touchdowns.
Instead, the 39-year-old husband and father of seven paid tribute to his Watson home team.
“On countless occasions they have given me the fortitude to face any foe, and an unexplainable happiness no matter the circumstance,” Benjamin posted on Twitter. “Together, wherever this tightrope leads, we will continue to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”
When it comes to prioritizing family, Benjamin seeks to not merely talk a good game but to also live it. He is an outspoken defender of the sanctity of human life and is executive producer of the recently released pro-life documentary “Divided Hearts of America: Discovering the Secret That Will Unite Us.” Meanwhile, his “One More Foundation” is tackling global poverty, homelessness, human trafficking, slavery and criminal justice reform.
And his wife and life partner, Kirsten, is equally passionate about making sure their marriage and family reflect their identity in Christ and embody the Biblical bonds of love, respect and accountability.
“We always say, ‘Go back to the truth and understand there are boundaries that God has set for your protection,’” Kirsten says.
The Watsons point to their family’s playbook, the Holy Bible, which not only guides their decisions but also exposes the enemy’s divisive schemes.
“Satan is going to attack the family,” Benjamin says. “We see that in Genesis. When the serpent tempted, he did not go to Adam, who was the head of the family, he went to Eve. Then Adam gave up his role as the spiritual head and submitted to Eve and what the serpent wanted.”
God’s design for the family, Benjamin says, is the essential foundation for a flourishing and healthy civilization and culture.
“When you don’t have families, you don’t have strength,” he says. “You don’t have identity. You don’t have leadership. You don’t have respect. You don’t have the glue that holds together the building block of any strong society, which is the family.”
During his NFL career, Benjamin also played for the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens—a brotherhood that inspired him, alongside his family, to persevere in overcoming a ruptured Achilles tendon, ruptured disc, torn ACL and several concussions.
And with each team, the common denominator for success was found in every team member fulfilling their unique role. With the family, Benjamin says, that formula applies as well.
“Satan is going to confuse roles within the family,” he says. “He’s going to pit husband against wife; he’s going to pit male against female; he’s going to say one person is more important than the other; he’s going to pervert Scripture and pervert truth. And the way we combat that is the same way Jesus combated it when He was tempted. He spoke the truth of Scripture. He didn’t speak the truth of culture.”
Kirsten says that while for years she has gladly done the heavy lifting at home when Benjamin was away during the football season, she also embraces her role as a helper when he is home.
“For some of us as women, we feel as though we can do a lot, but for me, it’s allowing Benjamin to lead,” Kirsten says. “Hopefully, my children see me honoring him, serving and looking to him as the head of our family. They also see how he cares for me and I care for him. So, the submission part is easy when you have a man who understands Who he is submissive to.”
The Watsons say their marriage provides the ideal opportunity for them to model, teach and train their pre-teen children in the ways of the Lord.
“I tell fathers all the time that the best way to teach your sons how to be men is to love your wife and for them to see how you treat their mom,” Benjamin says. “All that has an effect on what they learn about integrity, love, masculinity, service, strength, leadership and tenderness. All those things can be demonstrated through the husband and wife relationship.”
Like her parents, Kirsten says she and Benjamin are intentional about creating an environment in their home where all of their children are encouraged to respectfully express their opinions and feelings.
“We purposefully have breakfast together and we have dinner together, so that’s another opportunity to hear everyone’s voice,” Kirsten says. “With our kids, we always try to sit down with them and try to hear their side of the story and get their opinion on things, and then let them know that ‘God’s entrusted your lives to us for now, so we will make the final decision, but we do want to know how you feel and we do want to take that into consideration where it’s appropriate.’”
And while popular culture pressures parents to readily affirm and enable the inclinations and whims of their children, Benjamin says that advice simply isn’t loving.
“It’s a manifestation of a misunderstanding of what love is,” he says. “Love compels you as a parent to discipline. It also compels you to forgive and show mercy toward your children. If we understand love to be acceptance of everything that will make someone feel good at that particular moment, we’re not necessarily talking about love. In some respects, we’re talking about idolatry.”
Benjamin and Kirsten, who met at the University of Georgia and have been married more than 15 years, lament the heartbreaking realities of divorce’s destructive effects on the family.
“Satan will try to destroy that relationship because he knows that relationship is a direct reflection on Christ and His Body,” Benjamin says.
As for leading his family, Benjamin strives to follow the Biblical example of his father, Ken Watson, a pastor in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
“My dad has said that men are supposed to be the priest, prophet, provider and protector of their home, and that framework, I think, is what manhood is. That’s the standard that has been given to us, and that’s what we as believers try to pass on to our sons.”
Photo: Courtesy of Benjamin Watson