Ricky Watters: For His Family, For the Fans, For Football

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Ricky Watters: The Football Player

Mandatory Credit: Jay Dela Cruz, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

It was Sept. 3, 1995 and Watters was set to play his first game as a Philadelphia Eagle. In the most notorious play of his career, Watters would short arm a catch, choosing to avoid contact rather than fully extending out for the live ball. When asked about the play, Watters responded:

For who? For what?

Some football analysts believe it’s those four words that have kept him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Watters himself even went on record two years ago to say he regretted ever saying it. Since saying it, however, Watters has gone on to embrace it, going so far as to make it the title of his autobiography.

But as I mentioned the names of recently retired linebackers Chris Borland and Patrick Willis along with right tackle Anthony Davis and defense lineman Justin Smith, Watters let out a slight sigh before straightening up his posture and addressing my question of whether the negative connotation associated with “For who? For what?” changes with the prevalence of football related injuries.

"“It’s definite what I was trying to say – you want quality of life when this thing is over with. And that’s the reason why those guys decided to hang it up,” Watters said. “I don’t wanna end up like Darryl Stingley. I knew Darryl Stingley. I don’t wanna end up like Steve Smith. I know Steve Smith. Other people know the Steve Smith Sr. who was catching all the passes, but I know the fullback who blocked for Marcus Allen who’s been laying in a bed and can’t move, and the only way he can talk is with his eyes.” “So when you think of the stuff like that, you think of a guy like Junior Seau –a guy who I played against from USC and all the way up in the Super Bowl – we were the same age. He’s gone now. So it is a serious thing, and I am glad that it is coming more to the forefront. People are starting to be more aware of what football players go through.” “It’s just one of those things where you want to play, you want to play hard, but you also have to use your instincts, and my instincts on that day told me to be careful, look out. I said I’m not gonna fight it. Maybe it was God talking to me.”"

Drawing on my knowledge as a Warriors writer, I asked him whether he would consider coaching at the pro level, which he noticeably didn’t feel too confident about. He did, however, say he still enjoys the teaching aspect of it, relating it back to the legacy of “For who? For what?”

"“I don’t know about coaching. I actually like teaching it, I like doing football camps and stuff like that,” said Watters. “I really care about people playing the game, but playing it as safely as possible. I don’t think that you have to get tremendously injured to play the game. Everyone is gonna get hurt, everyone’s playing hurt. It just all depends on if you can play through the pain or not. Everyone is out there hurt after the first game. But to get a really severe injury that has you to where you can’t play with your kids after it’s over and enjoy your life, I don’t think that’s necessarily the way that you have to go.”"

Next: Ricky Watters: The Future Hall of Famer

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