Steve Watson was born on May 28, 1957 in Baltimore, Maryland. After playing his college football at Temple University, the 6-4 195 pound Watson was not drafted by an NFL team. He was a walk on for the Denver Broncos and signed with the team in 1979 as an undrafted free agent.
Steve Watson Emerges for Broncos
After his first two seasons as a backup player, Steve Watson finally got an opportunity in 1981 when starting receiver Rick Upchurch was injured. The Broncos had been searching for a quality wide receiver that could run precise routes, and one with sure hands. They found their man in Steve Watson.
On September 20, 1981 the Denver Broncos played against the Baltimore Colts. Before this game, Steve Watson had never caught a touchdown pass in the NFL. He grabbed seven balls for 143 yards including three acrobatic touchdown catches. “I waited three years for my first touchdown, and now they start coming in bunches,” said Steve Watson. “I’m super excited. I’ve never done anything like this before in my life — in high school, college or here, obviously.” (1) “Watson was great, and that last touchdown catch of his was tremendous,” said Denver Coach Dan Reeves. After this game, Steve Watson never looked back.
Steve Watson Sets Broncos’ Records
1981 was a special season for Steve Watson. He set two team records that season, one of them still stands. On October 11, 1981 Steve Watson caught a 95 yard touchdown pass from Craig Morton, topping his own 93 yard touchdown just two weeks earlier. For the season, Watson caught 60 balls for a Denver Broncos record 1244 yards and 13 touchdowns. Rod Smith later broke his single season receiving yard record.
Steve Watson in “The Drive”
Everybody remembers the 98 yard drive that John Elway led the Denver Broncos on to tie the Cleveland Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship Game. However, very few people remember the drive that produced the winning field goal in overtime. The Broncos faced a third down and 12 yards to go. The rush came and Elway began to scramble, running to his left and fired a pass to Steve Watson downfield for a 28 yard gain and a first down. “I was looking to run because I didn't see a whole lot of people in front of me,” said John Elway. “Then I saw everybody reacting to me and I saw one of their corners (Hanford Dixon) turn loose from covering Steve and come up after me. And I knew I was coming close to the line, maybe I had a step from crossing it, and I saw Steve at the last moment. And I threw the ball.” (2) This play set up the winning field goal and the Broncos beat the Cleveland Browns 23-20.
Steve Watson’s Career
Steve Watson, AKA, “Blade” was an outstanding wide receiver for the Denver Broncos from 1979 to 1987. When he retired from the Broncos and the NFL following the 1987 season, he was the teams second all time leading receiver, only trailing Lionel Taylor in yards. But what made him so good? “Best hands on the team,” John Elway testifies. “He's not a great speed threat. But when the time gets tough and you need a big completion, you know you can go to him and he'll make the catch. When it's crunch time, he's one of the best there is.” (3)
No receiver in the league is as aware of his abilities and limitations as Watson is. His model was Raymond Berry, whom Watson watched while growing up. “He didn't have great speed, either,” Watson says. “But he knew the sidelines extremely well. And he caught everything that was thrown to him. He wrote a number of books and pamphlets on receiving, and I've read every one of them. And I believe everything he says.” (3)
I believe that confidence and hard work made Steve Watson the great receiver that he was in the NFL. “You've got to believe you're the guy they should go to,” Watson says. “I'd like to think that maybe I can do something worthwhile.” (3) He certainly did, catching 353 passes for 6112 yards, 17.3 yards per catch and 36 touchdowns. He added another 21 catches for 358 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs, including an 11 catch 177 yard performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Steve Watson is an all-time great Denver Broncos player.
Steve Watson Biography Sources
(1) Colts continue to have problems as Broncos win (1981, September 21) The Capital, pg. 14
By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com