Welcome to Watson Field
When the Stetson Hatters began their first scrimmage of the spring last Saturday, April 8, more than 70 players were vying to make lasting impressions on coaches, who have numerous positions to fill before the season opener on Sept. 2 at Sacred Heart University.
On the offensive line, for example, young players such as Nick Kelly, Jacob Sullivan, Jordan Halfinds and Patrick Farley, among others, were seeking to stand out beyond their hulking frames. Kelly, alone, strikes quite the figure. The sophomore from Jupiter, Florida, measures 6 feet, 7 inches and weighs 285 pounds.
On this day, though, two other names commanded attention for already making great contributions to the football program: William A. Watson Jr. and William A. Watson III.
Prior to a team scrimmage, father and son were honored with permanent recognition for their longstanding charitable giving to Stetson Athletics. The site of the practice game was dedicated in their family name as Watson Field.
“We felt it was an appropriate time to recognize him in this way,” commented Stetson Director of Athletics Jeff Altier about Watson Jr., who is chairman of the board and founder of Watson Realty Corp., which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015.
Watson Jr. graduated from Stetson in 1959, with wife Janelle Willcox Watson also graduating that year. He received Stetson’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1981 and was inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma business honorary society as a Stetson Chapter honoree in April 2015. He was president of Florida Realtors in 1981 and was chairman of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World in 2012 and 2013. William A. “Bill” Watson III graduated in 1996. They have been generous donors on multiple levels.
Describing his support of Stetson Athletics as an “honor and privilege,” Watson Jr. pointed to the university’s influence on the success of his family. “My four years at Stetson University was a turning point in the development of my goals and objectives,” he said. “I am grateful to the many outstanding individuals who contributed to my growth at Stetson University.”
According to Altier, as Stetson hit the restart button on football more than five years ago, Watson Jr. immediately got behind the effort, as well as the entire athletics expansion initiative, which also included women’s lacrosse and beach volleyball. In turn, that expansion has fueled substantial growth across the entire university, multiplying the impact of giving to Athletics. “They have made a huge difference,” Altier said.
Additionally, Altier’s promise of covering the full cost of the Athletics expansion through charitable gifts is moving closer to “becoming a complete reality,” he noted.
Call it a touchdown – even before the new football season starts.
Editor’s note: The Hatters will hold a second scrimmage April 15 before playing their Spring Game on April 22, 6 p.m. at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand.