Oct. 16, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. - For 23-year-old tight end Asa Watson, football is definitely a passion but it is evident that he has more than just a sport to fulfill his life. Along with an outstanding football career, he has received recognition for his hard work in the classroom, has a love for missionary work and a strong faith in Christ.
Throughout his career at NC State, Watson has been recognized as a member of the 2011-2012 ACC Academic Honor Roll and a member of the 2012-2013 All-ACC Academic Team. Just recently, Watson was named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, and will get to travel to the Sugar Bowl this January.
“My parents always stressed academics to us growing up, so it is something that I have always put a focus on,” Watson said. “I remember in middle school when I wasn’t allowed to run until I got my grades up, and it taught me that school always comes first.”
Growing up, Watson was immersed in an athletic and religious environment. His father, Ken, was a former football player at the University of Maryland and is now the pastor of a ministry in Rock Hill, S.C., that he began 15 years ago.
Throughout his life, Watson has joined his parents in missionary work through his father’s ministry.
Watson is one of six children, all who played sports throughout their childhood, and is one of four who have played or currently play at a collegiate level.
His older brother Ben, 32, began his 10th season in the NFL this fall.
Ben, who recently signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints after playing for the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns for nine years, was an inspiration to Asa to start his football career in the eighth grade.
“I always wanted to be like Ben.” Watson said. “I looked up to him for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t very good when I started but I worked hard at it.”
Along with Ben who played at the University of Georgia, his older sister Jessica, 30, ran track at Coastal Carolina University and his younger sister Karis, 19, plays volleyball at Clemson University.
Watson kicked off his football career with the Wolfpack playing in nine games as a true freshman, and as a sophomore he saw action in every game. His career took a turn though in May of 2011 when he underwent surgery to correct a rapid heartbeat.
He was forced to sit out the 2011 season. He had a second surgery in December of the same year, but it did not cure his condition.
“I thought it would be fixed both times, but it wasn’t,” he remembered. “It is more of a nuisance now because all I can do is take medicine and stop what I’m doing if my heart rate does get too fast.
“It was hard for me because I was always trying to compare myself to others and be the best, but I knew that redshirting was the right thing to do.”
While recovering from his first surgery, he decided to use his time away from the field to travel with Athletes in Action (AIA) to Skid Row in Los Angeles. AIA is a Christian sports ministry that encourages athletes and coaches to reach out to people around the world by sharing their faith.
Of all the places he has been to for missionary work, this one was the most eye-opening experience for him. He spent three weeks there in the summer of 2011, helping to improve the area any way possible and to spread his faith in Christ.
“It wasn’t like anything I had ever experienced before,” Watson said. “The sights and smells and seeing so many people in poverty in this area alone gave me the opportunity to see things in a different perspective.”
During his time there he used his strong faith and his platform as a student-athlete to bring encouraging words to the people in the area.
“I tried to help by telling them that even though the people around you may fail you, Jesus Christ won’t,” Watson said.
While in Los Angeles he not only helped the people of the area but, also learned more about himself and his faith.
“The surgery and the trip to L.A. helped me to mature as a person as well as a football player and realize that no matter what, I am still accepted by the Lord,” Watson said.
After redshirting the 2011 season for his surgeries and spending time in Los Angeles, Watson was back on the field for the season opener against Tennessee on August 31, 2012.
“It was awesome to be able to come back and play right away against Tennessee. My first two years, I played but didn’t feel like I had a huge role. Last year I really felt like I contributed so much more in every game, and it felt great,” Watson said.
Although Watson had a great season coming back from his surgeries, his thoughts and energy are focused on the team as a whole versus his own performance.
He is looking forward to seeing what accomplishments can be made under Coach Dave Doeren and is excited about the positive environment he has surrounded his players in.
“You can tell Coach really wants to know us as people and not just players. He wants us to feel like a family, which is great,” Watson said.
Watson graduated in May with a communication degree and is going into his fourth year as a member of AIA, but is unsure of what he wants to pursue after his time at NC State. One thing he is sure of is whether he is drafted by the NFL or not, he wants to use his platform of being an athlete to do missionary work and to help others.
by Lizzie Bundy