NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The NFL is a grind. From the heat and humidity of training camp, through the highs and lows of a season to that final moment of pure joy for one team, but misery for 31 others.
It's become a year-round business, however there is a period of time, when the players get away and pursue their off the-field interests. Many remain athletic in nature, some travel the world, others just relax.
This off-season Ben Watson is committed to a love of music.
"Well I think I looked at all those keys and thought, man that would be pretty hard to learn," Watson said. "So I wanted to do something that was very challenging. I've always loved the sound of the piano."
Watson wrapped up his 10th NFL season in January, first with the Saints. He recorded 19 receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Black-and-Gold reach the NFC divisional playoffs, but starting this new venture has been a whole different ballgame.
"I was banging on it definitely," Watson said. "I was like all thumbs on the piano definitely. Some things come easy to me, sports, I'm athletically inclined. The piano, not so much, but I think that's part of the fun is that when you are able to learn something that is totally new, and challenge your brain in that way. When you have that accomplishment, it's definitely a great sense of accomplishment when you do that."
Watson meets with his instructor about twice a month, and his progress has been steady.
"Since I do spend most of my time teaching children, it has surprised me just how incredibly fast he learns," Stephanie Screen said. "Also, he's just extremely intelligent, so he's come along very quickly. It's been a lot of fun just to be able to throw out ideas and he gets them on the first try, we don't have to go over and over them. It's just been a surprise to see how many things he can learn all at one time."
Watson added, "I'm able to print off some basic, basic piano music and kinda work my way through it during the week, and say Ah Ha, I recognize that sound, and that's a great feeling."
Joining Ben for lessons is 5-year old daughter Grace, who is learning how to play the violin. Watson wants all four of his children to connect with music in some fashion.
"My other daughter wants to play the flute, and Isaiah the two year old, we're already telling him he thinks he wants to do the guitar, so we might have a little "Jackson Five" in here, a little "Watson Four", I don't know. But she's enjoying it, and again, it's all about expanding your mind, it's about working different parts of your brain. All those things, and music is really a great sense of expression. And really the way we're using it, the way we want to use it is to worship and praise God."
Screen added, "Spending time with him and with their family has made me just realize how much these players are people, and it's really been impressive to get to know them and see. They're just such a generous and warm-hearted family, and to see they just have normal family lives, like the rest of us during the off-season. When they're not so busy, they can spend a lot of family time together."
So how good does Ben Watson want to be on the piano?, which can also be a grind in its own unique way.
"One thing that I have is discipline," Watson said. "I will practice if I want to be good at something. But at the same time I want to enjoy it. I want to be at a place where it's still fun, and I'm not racing to compete to do this or that, I'm still enjoying it. I want to be good though. I want to be able to sit down eventually a couple of years from now and play a piece, I want to be able to sight read. I want to be able to play something at home with the family around that we can all sing to. My goal is definitely to be pretty good at it."