During the early years of St. Mark’s High School, Steve Watson helped lead the Spartans to back-to-back state football championships. He went on to a nine-year career in the National Football League, playing in two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.
It was those Super Bowl appearances that brought Watson back to Pike Creek on March 11, as St. Mark’s was inducted into the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll. The former player attended an awards ceremony before speaking to the students about chasing their dreams, much like he did to get to the NFL.
Watson was a high school star, yet he received little interest from college recruiters. He was offered a nomination to the U.S. Military Academy but turned it down because it would have meant a five-year commitment to the Army following graduation, and he wanted to play professionally. He ended up at Temple University, and everything he did was done with an eye toward the future.
“If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you,” he said. “I always believed that someday I would play in the NFL.”
The lack of big-time suitors drove Watson.
“I developed that chip on my shoulder,” he said. “That’s what I carried with me all the way through. You start learning what it is and what it takes” to succeed.
One of the reasons he chose Temple “was all those schools that didn’t recruit me, I looked at their schedule for the next four years, I was going to get to play them all. And probably we were going to be their homecoming game, so, hey, this will be awesome.”
Watson had to battle again after his college career. He was not drafted and signed with the Broncos as a free agent. He went on to play in 126 games, 87 of those starts. He caught 353 passes, many of those from Hall of Famer John Elway, and scored 36 touchdowns. Nearly all of those scores were included in a highlight video the students watched before his talk. Watson was an all-pro selection in 1981.
In a tough world, everyone is looking for an edge, he told the students. “You’d better believe that you are the right person.”
After his first season with the Broncos, he returned to Temple as a full-time student, even going so far as to live in a dormitory. He joined the track team, not because he had some great interest in running, but because it was a great training opportunity. As with everything else, this was done with an eye toward his goal of playing professional football.
“You only get one shot at this. Why not make it your best shot?” he asked.
Following his playing career, Watson spent several years as an assistant coach with the Broncos on the staff of his former coach, Mike Shanahan, and he coached for a few years at the college level. He has since established himself in residential real estate in Colorado and is a motivational speaker.
Following the talk, Watson met with many students, signed a few autographed and reminisced with several teammates who were invited to the event. In an interview after the talk, he said he moved to Delaware from Baltimore before high school, and his father, who worked in Dover, did some research on local high schools and liked St. Mark’s, then a brand-new school. On his first trip back to the school since his 10-year reunion, he said he still brings up his education and experience at St. Mark’s.
“I’ve got a keynote speech that I do now that includes when I was at St. Mark’s. It talks to the effect of noboby recruiting you,” he said.
Watson remembered the camaraderie among the Spartans and the state titles in 1973 and ’74.
“We used to ride from here to Baynard Stadium to play our games,” he recalled. “We would sing, on our way back usually, ‘We are the Spartans, the mighty, mighty Spartans. Everywhere we go, people want to know who we are.’”