The Ravens added one of the NFL's most respected players this offseason by signing veteran tight end Benjamin Watson.
The 35-year-old tight end is outspoken and active in the community, and here are five things you may not know about him:
1) He's an author
After tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri and Charleston, South Carolina, Watson decided to write a book about race relations in the United States. The book – "Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race. Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us" – was published in November, and it "draws from [Watson's] life, his family legacy, and his role as a husband and father to sensitively and honestly examine both sides of the race debate and appeal to the power and possibility of faith as a step toward healing." Since writing the book, Watson has been a regular widely-followed commentator in the media on issues of race.
2) He was born on the Chesapeake Bay
Watson grew up in South Carolina and played college football at Georgia, but he was actually born in the Mid-Atlantic on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Watson was born in Norfolk, Virginia, so joining the Ravens this offseason was a bit of a homecoming for him.
A photo posted on
3) His parents were athletes at the University of Maryland
In addition to being a native of Norfolk, Watson has another connection to Maryland because his father played football at the University of Maryland from 1974-78. His mother was also a synchronized swimmer at Maryland during that time. Watson grew up watching Terps games and knows the tune to the school's fight song. "That's all I heard growing up, was that fight song," Watson said. Even though Watson found himself cheering for the Terps as a kid, when the time came for him to get recruited out of high school, he didn't get any looks from his dad's alma mater. "The only gripe I have is they didn't recruit me," Watson joked during an interview the day he signed with the Ravens. "I'm like legacy and they didn't even offer me a scholarship. It's OK. I won't hold it against them."
4) He was a Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist
Watson was one of last year's finalists for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes excellence on and off the field. Watson was incredibly active in the New Orleans community during his time with the Saints. He started a foundation, called 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 initiatives and partnerships."
5) He was named to CNN's list of 11 Most Extraordinary People
Watson became a national figure on the discussion of race in 2014 when his Facebook post about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri went viral. Watson wrote a heartfelt and emotional post where he said, "I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing." In naming Watson to their list of most extraordinary people, CNN wrote that his "thoughtful, balanced Facebook post* *… may have eased tensions and deepened understanding on both sides."