By Benjamin Peacock
Over the course of the next several weeks leading up to the season, I am conducting one-on-one interviews with players to publish what I hope will be fun, entertaining, and informative reads on our team. Very often fans are removed from the athletes they cheer, so I hope this series of publications will help Rangers fans connect to their team in a meaningful way.
If you want to know what caliber of soccer player Ben Watson is, look no further than the fact he impressed Coach Will Montgomery enough to walk on to the Little Rock Rangers team at the last minute in the 2018 season.
Ben started running around on a pitch in Sherman, TX while he watched his three older brothers play until he got on his first team at the age of five. He dabbled in several sports, like basketball—owing to his 6 foot frame—as well as some baseball, tennis, cross country, and track. That was up until his freshman year of high school when he decided to focus on his first passion.
High school wasn’t his first marker in competitive soccer, though. That started back in 6th grade where the nearest team was an hour’s drive every day. But those are the sacrifices that the good players are willing to make, and a short perusal of Ben’s success confirms he is, in fact, a very good player. In high school he was named to the All State First Team twice, All District team all four years at Texoma Christian School, and as a senior received District I MVP, All Tournament, and State MVP honors while helping forge a path to the state championship. Such was the influence of these years, Ben and his coach, Eric Krotz, still keep in touch on a weekly basis.
Ben is currently attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He was recruited on scholarship and seized an opportunity as a freshman to make a statement. The team lost several players to substance violations and the young guns had to step up. They went 7-9-1 that season but he laid the groundwork for more to come, earning the team’s Newcomer of the Year accolade for his effort. The RiverHawks made it to the Elite 8 in 2017 and then as a junior in 2018, the team went 15-3, making it to the Round of 16. Ben made First Team All region and All Conference.
Ben keeps up with his education really well, as he studies Health and Human Performance with a minor in Psychology. He’s aiming to go to Physical Therapy school in Texas upon graduating. Having just been named to the Academic All American team in December, he’s setting himself up well for that goal.
Ben’s typical day will involve plenty of discipline to stay game ready, including that all-important first meal of the day. Oatmeal, eggs, and fruit will be consumed plentifully to get in the carbs and proteins. After class, he’ll hit the weights and then go straight to training for a couple hours in the evening, getting in some cardio when he can. From there, he undergoes treatment in the training room, stretching and hydration, and eats lots of chicken and rice.
As for game days, Ben doesn’t really have any quote-unquote superstitious rituals but he and his roommate Trevor Reed (also of the Rangers) would always go to Subway for a game day sandwich. Music and a little FIFA video game action to keep the mind clear gets him ready.
But that’s not to say he’s all regimen and no relax. Ben loves the outdoors, most of all when he gets to spend that time with friends hiking, hunting, or fishing. Granted most days are about soccer, but when it is not, he’s invested in his friends.
Off the pitch, it is easy to see why Ben values relationships. He credits his best friend’s mom for setting him on a disciplined path of academic rigor and athletic discipline. “Home life was tough and she took me in and I stayed a lot there. They fed me and made sure I did my homework,” Ben recalled. These days he stays with Trevor when he is here to play for the Rangers.
Growing up, Ben looked to Clint Dempsey as the professional soccer athlete he aspired to be. “He was from Texas and paved the way for Americans to play overseas,” Ben said. These days he looks to the careers of players like Dani Alvarez or Marcelo, both Brazilian backs.
2018 was Ben’s first season on the Rangers squad and it wasn’t his plan to begin with. When playing for a team in Virginia fell through, he had two days to figure out what to do. Trevor was very influential in pointing Ben to the Rangers having played for the team two years and connected him to Coach Montgomery.
“Trevor talked to Coach Will and I remember he replied a day and half later asking when I could be there,” Ben recounted. “I told him ‘Literally tomorrow’ and drove to Little Rock that night.” He practiced with the team for a couple days, had immediate chemistry, and his place on the backline alongside captain Nick Doyle was secured.
The season to come would see the Rangers push deep into the playoffs all the way to the South Region Final. In that run, led in no small part to Ben’s sharp defense, the Rangers held opponents scoreless for six straight matches and went undefeated from their game against Ozark FC on June 16 until the loss to Miami FC 2. Ben was named to the Heartland Conference Starting XI, South Region Starting XI, and National Starting XI. Yeah. Wow.
When asked about his favorite moment last year, Ben replied “It had to be winning the conference championship against Wichita on penalty kicks at their place.”
From all accounts, Ben maintains a very healthy balance of education, fitness, activity, relationships, and fun. And speaking of the latter, to end the interview Ben was asked several rapid fire questions to dig into a little of his personality.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Definitely the fact that I have seven siblings. Three older brothers, then me, two younger sisters within three years of me, then one eight year old sister, and one five year old brother.
Who are your professional teams?
For MLS, it’s FC Dallas. In EPL (English Premier League), it’s Chelsea. (Writer’s note: when I prodded him about Chelsea’s recent performance being the good Spurs fan I am, he acknowledged “they are struggling”.)
All time favorite movie?
As a kid, Jungle Book (the old cartoon version). As a soccer player, of course Goal.
Favorite place to eat?
If you had the day off tomorrow—no training, no practice, no worries—how would you spend it?
Probably sleeping in a little, then if the weather is nice, go to Sparrow Hawk which is a hiking place overlooking the river. Then come back and grill out with friends. I love to grill.
Whose concert would you travel a long way to see?
What is one superpower you wish you had?
So the new season for the Rangers is rapidly approaching and there is a buzz amongst returning players, staff, and fans, especially in qualifying to compete in the US Open Cup.
“I am super excited because the Open Cup is something you always dream about playing in as a kid,” Ben said. “Being on a team and the possibility of playing a professional side, whether USL or MLS, and the doors it can open.”
A door metaphor is pretty appropriate. Ben’s skill in the defensive third closes the door on opponent scoring chances with regularity, while simultaneously opening them for the Rangers to make new, historic achievements. In the team’s fourth season and Ben’s second, the opportunity in both Heartland Conference action and the US Open Cup has never been more exciting!