A new town, new home, new team, new baby and a new set of concerns.
It's been a whirlwind year for former Northwestern football star Ben Watson, who left the New England Patriots and signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns.
But one thing isn't new, although it's gone through a change. Watson will be back in Rock Hill, which he considers his home, on March 26 to host the fourth Ben Watson Youth Football Clinic in association with ROAR Sports.
"In the past we've done this three times on Saturday at different locations,'' Watson said. "We are moving everything to District Three Stadium this year and will have clinics at 10 in the morning and at 2 after lunch. Then at 6, we'll have a combine for the older players.
Never miss a local story.
"This year we are charging $5 to register. It's a fund-raiser for ROAR Sports. We'll still give each kid a clinic T-shirt and other gifts. In the past we've included tote bags and water bottles. And we'll have other NFL and local high school players helping us.''
Online, go to www.roarsports.org to register. You must sign up to attend. Brian Jones, ROAR's Sport Director, said scholarships are available and that anyone wishing to attend but does not have the means to register online can call his office at 803-366-7627.
"We don't want to leave anyone behind who wished to attend,'' Jones said. "They can call, and if I'm not available, can leave a number where they can be reached. This is for the kids and it's a positive event. We do this in conjunction with Rock Hill School District III and the Rock Hill Police Department.''
The two youth clinics will focus more on technique and teaching basic skills. They will conclude with flag football games.
Both are for kids in grades 2-5, with the first from 10 a.m.-noon and the second from 2-4 p.m.
Watson and his staff will conduct a middle school combine from 6-8 p.m. for players in grades 6-8. Players will "go through" about 10 "player events" to test their skill and compare results against others similar to a pro football combine. There will also be flag football games.
"It's amazing that Been keeps coming back to spend time with the kids,'' Jones said. "He brings other NFL players and everyone learns while having a good time. You don't have many players in sports who give back the way he does.
"This is Ben's home and he is proud of his roots. He knows where he came from, and keeps coming home to work with kids and leave them with positive thoughts. We are proud to be associated with this event. The registration fee is to offset costs of the clinics and to help supports our many programs.''
Watson's staff will include former Lewisville standout Sheldon Brown, his teammate in Cleveland. He has invited several other current NFL players and is awaiting confirmation.
Ten months ago, Watson and his wife, Kirsten, welcomed their second daughter into the world. They named her Naomi and their other daughter is 2-year-old Grace.
"Cleveland is a good football town with a strong fan base,'' said Watson, a 6-3, 255-pound tight end. "And the atmosphere is more low key than it was in New England. I have good teammates and we started to gel as the season went on. We had players who came in and were in the right place at the right time.
"Cleveland is a city hit pretty hard by the recession; a lot of unemployment. But the people are friendly and I enjoy meeting them. We live 12 minutes from the practice facility and about 25 minutes for the stadium, so I get home quickly. It's been a good situation.''
Watson had another good season. He led all AFC tight ends with 68 receptions. He turned them into 763 yards, second among AFC tight ends, and had three touchdown catches.
But there is a question mark looming, and Watson is in the wait and see mode like the other NFL players. If a collective bargaining agreement is not reached between the NFL owners and the NFL players union, there could be a lockout and no season this year.
"I definitely believe we will play,'' Watson said about his eighth pro season. "The questions I have are how will all of this affect our off-season training and mini camps. Everything is uncertain, but it's positive that both sides are talking, trying to work it out.
"A big concern of mine and the other players I've talked with goes beyond football. If an agreement isn't reached, our health care expires. I've signed up with COBRA in case I become unemployed. You have to be safe, have to protect your family and yourself.''