Benjamin Watson has always felt the pull to write a book.
But the subject of his first wasn’t what he thought it might be.
Watson’s book, “Under Our Skin,” was officially released Tuesday, an in-depth expansion of the Facebook post he wrote last November to express his feelings and frustration on racial inequality, a post sparked by a grand jury’s decision not to charge Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown, a decision that sparked riots.
Approached by many to expand his ideas into a book, Watson was initially hesitant, then decided to write the book for Tyndale House Publishing with the help of author Ken Petersen.
“Over the last year, I’ve had a chance to write a lot about different social issues, and as I’ve talked about before, the opportunity to write a book came up,” Watson said. “I didn’t think I’d be qualified for it, but it’s really kind of exciting just to see how God opened that door, and it just kind of happened.”
Watson, who has a degree in finance, found himself penning blogs and Facebook posts over the past couple of years, using the Internet as an outlet for ideas weighing on his heart.
A devout Christian, Watson reads books written by pastors — Voddie Baucham and Francis Chan in particular — and listens to podcasts, taking the time afforded by travel to explore spiritual issues.
But he is also a regular reader of current events, contemplating issues that range from race relations to poverty to ISIS and political issues. When he was younger, Watson often found an outlet for the deeper issues he’d been wrestling in conversation.
“We talk about things with teammates where it’s in the locker room, it’s a very organic setting like this, or whether it’s at home, with my wife and my family, or at church, or wherever it is,” Watson said. “There’s another side of all of us, where we think about larger issues.”
A lot of what’s written on social media is fired off in the blink of an emotion, but Watson, whose father is a pastor, often took a different approach. When he was a kid, Watson would watch his father see something happen on the news, wait for the gut reaction to pass, then carefully unpack and dissect the issue before taking his thoughts and beliefs to the pulpit.
The more Watson wrote, the more he realized he relished that process.
“I didn’t really know that I liked to write,” Watson said. “It’s something that I’ve kind of discovered over the last couple years. I’ve been doing things here and there, but really over the last year, I’ve been able to sit down and express my thoughts, and really have a great joy in sitting down, trying to get my thoughts out there and thinking about how people will respond to it, then seeing how people will respond to it.”
“Under Our Skin,” like the Facebook post that inspired it, is a testament to that process. Watson explored the ideas on racial inequality he’d written in his initial Facebook post with teammates and friends, taking into account things that happened as he wrote over the course of the past year, and a lot of those conversations and experiences, including the birth of his fifth child during training camp, show up in the pages of the book.
Watson also let a few of those close to him read the book as he wrote it. Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who read the first nine chapters and had to wait for the final two, found himself bugging his tight end for the rest.
“I think it’s a phenomenal book,” Brees said. “I think he has a tremendous voice and platform, and I hope that everybody reads it because I think it’s really one of those things that make you think, and I think it could really make a difference.”
“Under Our Skin” won’t be Watson’s only entry as an author.
The veteran tight end, who would also like to try his hand at broadcasting after he retires, already has a deal in place to write a future book on fatherhood — the initial idea he had for a book — and he has spent the past couple of years writing short entries, entries he plans to someday compile into a devotional, a collection of short pieces often used for Bible Study, prayer or daily reflection.
“There is a lot of our lives that is a great story to tell,” Watson said.
And Watson is courageous enough to put those parts of his life on paper.