Mack, Watson serve as honorary coaches

Posted Jun 14, 2012

CLEVELAND -- Browns offensive lineman Alex Mack and tight end Benjamin Watson served as honorary coaches for the Marine Week Flag Football game between the 3/25 Marines and Cleveland First Responders.

CLEVELAND -- For one day, Cleveland Browns players became coaches.

Browns tight end Benjamin Watson and Pro Bowl center Alex Mack served as honorary coaches for the Marine Week Flag Football game between the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and Cleveland’s First Responders Wednesday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The game was part of the city-wide Marine Week celebration, which started Monday with a Mayoral proclamation at Public Square and runs through Sunday.

“I’m honored to be the coach,” Watson said. “It’s an honor to be a part of Marine Week, supporting the people that fight for us and supporting the first responders. These policemen and firemen, EMS folks, they save lives. They put their lives on the line for us and other people who are in trouble every day without complaining. It’s great to just go out and be a part of what they’re doing.”

Like Watson, Mack jumped at the chance to help support the United States military.

“It’s cool that it’s Marine Week here in town, so I was really excited to be part of one of the big activities going on,” Mack said. “Getting to go down to Cleveland Browns Stadium and have some fun, support the Marines was a good cause. I think it’s a great thing the city of Cleveland has done, bring the Marines in, honor them. Just to be part of that and promote the message that, ‘We appreciate you,’ I’m all for that.”

Watson and Mack’s participation in Wednesday’s game was the latest in both players’ commitment to helping the United States military.

This past spring, Mack made a trip to the Middle East as part of the NFL-USO Tour.

In 2008, Watson joined the NFL-USO Tour and visited Kuwait, Iraq and Kyrgyzstan. A scheduled trip to Afghanistan was postponed because a snowstorm in the mountainous country prevented them from landing.

“It was just an eye-opening experience, a great experience and just gave me the utmost respect for the men and women who fight for our country and also for their families and the sacrifices they make,” Watson said. “I was only there for 12 days, which seemed like forever, but they go for months and months at a time, don’t see their children, don’t see their spouses, loved ones. With the sacrifices they make, it was great to go there and see a little bit of what they go through and see them with a smile on their faces when we got to meet them and say, ‘Thank you.’”

Watson’s grandfather was in the service and his aunt was in the Marine Corps. Growing up in Norfolk, Va., where there is a large Naval station, left Watson with a lasting impression.

“I remember the Gulf War and all the ships coming in and out and the ‘God Bless the USA’ song being played all the time,” Watson recalled. “That’s a big part of that area, so I did grow up with a large consciousness of the military and great respect for them.

“I don’t like the term, ‘Giving back.’ It shouldn’t be a conscious thing that you’re doing. It shouldn’t be a decision. It should be part of who you are as people. They’re sacrificing, doing their jobs and I believe it’s my job and my duty if I have a chance to put a smile on somebody’s face or a chance to say, ‘Thank you,’ I should do that. It’s a privilege to meet them.”

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