METAIRIE, La. — Benjamin Watson finished up at the University of Georgia in 2003 and figured that if he would be able to make it through the 2008 NFL season, he would have been blessed with a long career.
That would have been five seasons after he had entered the league, seasons in which he battled through a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ankle sprains and whatever other ailments that could possible befall an NFL player.
“It’s one of those things where God opens a door and you keep walking through it until he closes it and moves you somewhere else,” Watson said. “If he would have closed it after five years that would have been great.”
But the door didn’t close. Five seasons later, Watson is beginning the next chapter in what has been an under-the-radar career.
Now with the New Orleans Saints, Watson hopes the next part can mirror the first, when he went to three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, catching passes for future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
In just the few months he has been with New Orleans, he already sees similarities.
“Coach (Sean) Payton will tell you that a lot of our organization we model after the New England Patriots with the success that they had,” Watson said. “Obviously, (he does things) with his own spin on things, but there are certain tenants of a good football team that you copycat around the league.”
As impressed as Watson is in the organization, those around him are equally as impressed with the 32-year-old.
“Ben Watson is a beast,” fellow tight end Jimmy Graham said. “He looks like he is 19 years old and he’s definitely helped me as far as telling me to stay low.”
“I think he is going to be great for Jimmy (Graham) just because you look at Ben and he is a complete tight end,” added quarterback Drew Brees. “He is a guy who can block, is a great route runner, a great pass catcher, can make plays all over the field, and is one of the better athletes on the field.”
In fact, while Watson is known as a run blocker, his 6-foot-3, 255-pound frame lends itself to being a formidable mismatch for defensive players on pass routes. He has 321 catches in 116 games, scoring 28 touchdowns while putting up 3,776 yards with two different teams.
His ability as a complete player at tight end gets lost, though, in his reputation for adding to the run game.
“A lot of times you get a tight end and you say, ‘Well his strength is more in the passing game, and he is limited in the running game,’ ” coach Sean Payton said. “I think in Ben’s case, I know he is a good locker room guy, and he did a good job in the protections in the running game as well as the passing game. He gives you versatility that way.”
The question is, now in his 10th season, what allowed him to get past Year 5 and into his second decade of professional football?
“Just maintenance, I have learned a lot along the way about taking care of your body, stuff like that,” Watson said. “It keeps you young hanging around these guys. I have four kids of my own so they have to keep me young too.”