Patriots rookie TE Asa Watson no stranger to Gillette Stadium
|05.14.14 at 9:15 am ET|
FOXBORO — Most of the Patriots rookies are getting their first look at Gillette Stadium this week, but you could pardon Asa Watson for being a little blase compared to the rest of the first-year players.
The former North Carolina State tight end has been to Foxboro before — he used to journey to New England to watch his big brother Benjamin play when he was with the Patriots from 2004-2009.
During a break in the offseason workout program Tuesday, Asa recalled the trips he made to Gillette to watch his brother play, including the regular-season finale in 2005 when Doug Flutie delivered a memorable drop-kick in a loss against the Dolphins.
“I remember that vividly, just sitting up in the stands,” he said Tuesday. “And now I’m like actually here, actually a part of it.”
Asa played in 36 games for North Carolina State and caught 29 passes for 351 yards with one touchdown. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder wasn’t drafted, and confessed Tuesday he was a bit “disappointed” to be forced to go the free agent route.
But when the opportunity came up to follow in the footsteps of his big brother and sign with the Patriots, he jumped at the chance.
‘He told me it’s a great place to go — it will help me develop as a young player. It’s a great opportunity,” Asa said of his brother’s guidance. “I’m just really thankful that they would choose me. To go as a free agent, it’s an awesome opportunity. I’m grateful to be chosen.
“He’s always been there to give me pointers and anything I need help on,” Asa added of his brother, who is currently with the Saints. “He’s always been an example of how to work hard, how to be determined, how to hustle.”
That hustle is embodied in Benjamin’s signature play — he gained a sizable measure of fame after chasing down Denver defensive back Champ Bailey in a 2005 playoff game against the Broncos. It’s a play Asa remembers well.
‘I was watching TV, I remember sitting on the couch, I thought the play was over,” Asa recalled with a smile. “All of the sudden my dad my jumps up and said, ‘Look at Benjamin! Look at Benjamin!’ He chased down Champ Bailey. It was amazing.’
Asa has battled heart issues over the course of his life — they showed up late in his freshman year, and surgery caused him to sit out the 2011 season. Watson has Wolff-Parkins-White Syndrome, which causes rapid heart beats.
After redshirting his junior year, he said those issues are a thing of the past.
“I was just curious as to what was happening, (but) once they figured out what it was I wasn’t too concerned that I wasn’t going to keep playing,” said Watson, who said there are 20 other players currently in the league who suffered from the same malady.
Ultimately, Asa is thankful for the support of a big brother to provide guidance, but he’s looking to carve out his own legacy.
‘It feels really cool. It’s really surreal, to see it as a young person and now I’m actually in the position he was,” he said. “But it brings its own challenges, and I’m trying to learn and pick things up as fast as I can.
“I can just say I can only be the best I can be,” he added. “(Ben) had a great career, and he had a great influence here. All I can do is come in and bring my best every day to try and make a great contribution.”