New Orleans Saints TE
Watson attended the seventh annual “NFL Broadcast Boot Camp” last month, along with 23 other current and former NFL players. The camp was held at the NFL Films headquarters in Mt. Laurel, N.J.
“I’ve always had an interest in broadcasting and just exploring it as a possible post-football career,” Watson said. “You get hands-on instructions from the people who hire and the people who fire and the people who have been doing it for so many years. To get that type of knowledge, you would be crazy to just pass that up. I saw the opportunity and definitely wanted to take part in it.”
Watson, 6-3, 255, came to New Orleans from the Cleveland Browns, with whom he appeared in 45 games with 41 starts from 2010-12. Originally a first round draft choice (32nd overall) of the New England Patriots in 2004, Watson has career totals in nine NFL seasons of 116 appearances with 88 starts and 321 receptions for 3,776 yards (11.8 avg.) with 28 touchdowns.
At the Broadcast Boot Camp, each player engaged in tape study, game preparation, editing, on-field reporting, as well other activities run by personnel from NFL broadcast partners ESPN, FOX, NBC, CBS, NFL Network, SiriusXM and Dial Global Radio.
“The play-by-play was probably the part that I found the hardest but also the most rewarding,” said Watson, who added that he was most comfortable in the analyst role.
“I think the great thing is that I had the chance to experience a lot of different things,” he said. “The more you can do the better. It’s kind of like football. I think you have to be able to do a lot of different things.”
A reason for Watson’s comfort with being an analyst comes from his broadcast experience while he played for the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns. He would visit local stations to do a post-game breakdown. In Cleveland, Watson pre-recorded a pregame show for each game. Watson also participated in School of the Legends, an officially licensed partner of the NFL Players Association, while in Cleveland.
“Each team has a (NFLPA) liaison, so I was kind of the Browns’ liaison,” he said. “I would interview different players.”
The main purpose of School of the Legends is to give fans an opportunity to connect and interact with current and former NFL players, with a strong emphasis on video.
Watson said one of his role models in broadcasting, CBS host James Brown, was an instructor in New Jersey.
“He talked about when he first started he didn’t even know anything about any sport and now he is where he is now,” Watson said.
Along with Brown, Watson also looks to former players and teammates for insight on the broadcasting profession.
“Obviously, I watch a lot of guys that I played with. I watch Heath Evans. We played together for a while so I like to watch him. In football, I like to watch teams play where I know people and the same with when I watch commentary. I like to see the guys that I played with.”
Evans, a former NFL fullback and current NFL Network analyst, stressed that being an analyst requires hard work and dedication.
“I would say that it is just as much studying as it was when we were playing, it’s just different,” said Evans, who retired after the 2010 season, ending his 10-year career that included a two-year stay in New Orleans. “You study a game plan, you prepare to beat one team, but now you’re trying to maintain a knowledge level on 32 different organizations. You have to know not just the players you are facing, but you have to know the GMs and who’s making the financial decisions and who’s making the roster decisions. Is the head coach an offensive or defensive coach? Does he control everything?”
Evans is certain though that Watson has the traits required for the business.
“This is a Duke scholarship athlete that decided to transfer to Georgia for a better level of competition, as well spoken and sharp as they come,” Evans said. “He’s never shied away from hard work. People like him are few and far between.”