January 14, 2006.
I’m from New Hampshire. My parents were born and raised in Lowell, Mass. But we moved out west and settled in Colorado when I was only eight years old. Thankfully my dad kept that Boston fire in me and I grew up a Patriots fan. Well, all Boston sports, but that’s beside the point.
Being born in 1986, I really started appreciating football and the Patriots around the year Curtis Martin won Offensive Rookie of the Year. So I was about 10-years old. At that point in time, and even still to this day to an extent, the Denver Broncos ALWAYS seemed to beat us. As a young Pats fan in hostile territory, this wasn’t the easiest thing with which to deal.
Eventually these guys named Tom Brady and Bill Belichick came around and turned things around. Now our games with Denver were much more competitive. Then we won three Super Bowls. Those Broncos fans couldn’t touch me now! Needless to say, the Broncos remain my biggest rival because ALL of my friends, minus one from Connecticut, are Broncos fans.
Now onto January 14, 2006. The Patriots are back in Denver for the Divisional Round. I’m watching the game with all of my friends. We’re losing, so of course I’m getting grief from every angle. Then the worst possible scenario occurs: Brady throws an interception to Champ Bailey in the end zone – one of the fastest men in the league. Everybody starts screaming in joy as my hopes get dashed. Man, I couldn’t have felt worse at that moment. There goes Champ, to the 40, the 30, the 20. Nobody is catching him. Not a chance.
Wait, what is that white blur angling in from the far side? *WHAM* Champ Bailey is down at the 1?! I start going wild because I finally have a little something to cheer about.
“What THE HELL was that though?” I was still wondering. Then the replays ensue and I bear witness to what I consider the greatest hustle play of all-time. Benjamin Watson runs… 115? 130? yards to chase down the lightning fast Bailey to save the touchdown.
We lost, but that play was so unbelievably satisfying, it took most of the sting away. More than 14 years later, I don’t remember anything else about that game, but I’ll never forget that play and what it meant to me at a rather young age of 19. This game was over. The Patriots were not going to win the title. The outcome of the play did not matter. Despite that, Watson still gave every last ounce of energy he had to do his job and finish the play, even when everyone else had given up. It’s how you perform, how you maintain your attitude and drive when you have nothing to gain from it that truly shows a man’s character. No matter the situation, always give it your all. It’s a philosophy I’ve tried to live by ever since.
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