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Tim Watson: Former Football Great Gives Back In Tampa Bay, Leads Youth By Example

Tim Watson speaks to students at Academy Prep in Tampa. - Julie Busch
Tim Watson speaks to students at Academy Prep in Tampa. - Julie Busch
Excelling is nothing new for Tim Watson. As a young Peach County High School student growing up in Fort Valley, Ga., home to eight successful NFL-bound players, Watson regularly garnered attention on the playing field -- track, basketball and football -- as well as in the classroom.

After achieving further success at Howard University, he earned the distinction of becoming the first athlete in the school's history named to the GTE Academic All-America Team and has since been inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame. Following his 1993 drafting by the Green Bay Packers, Watson found himself on the professional football field, and for the next seven years, played alongside such legendary NFL teammates as Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott.

But Watson says he doesn't believe that success happens by accident.

"I don't think you can do everything off the cuff and expect to be successful and experience continued success without having systems in place," says the divorced father of three who now resides in Wesley Chapel, just off I-75 north of Tampa.

A New Kind Of Field

Watson says he learned at an early age the concept of hard work firsthand when his parents would bring the family to the local peach fields in the small Georgian town to pick fruit. "There wasn't a need factor. We didn't have to pick fruit to have food on our table. It was to help us understand work ethic, and just another thing that prepared me strategically for success," he says.

After Watson's NFL career ended in 1999, he contemplated his next move. He and his family relocated from Arizona to the Tampa Bay region where he became involved with the Tampa Bay chapter of the NFL Alumni Association, for which he served as president for two years. He developed skills as a business trainer, working with financial and sales representatives, a career track which led him to his current role: motivational speaker and lifestyle coach.

"I say 'lifestyle' coach, because my whole objective is to help people enhance the mind, body and the soul," he says. "I believe to be your best intellectually and spiritually, you need to be in your best physical shape as well, so I've put together programs that allow people to train strategically in all three areas."

Watson says that he's been able to pull much of his coaching wisdom straight from his pro sports career and notes three key lessons that he's integrated into his professional and personal life: acknowledge the support of others as a key to your success, constantly seek opportunities to learn, and put words and theories into practice.

"A lot of people have great ideas and theories," he says. "I'm not into theories. I'm into people who put into practice what they planned to do."

Uplifting Others

In 2005, Watson launched UPLIFT Systems LLC, in an effort to share his own personal strategies for success with individuals, small groups, teams and businesses, from a systematic, analytical approach. "UPLIFT Systems was based upon me going back and evaluating what was put in place in my life for me to become successful and figuring out how to package it and share it with others," he says.

According to Watson, UPLIFT represents the importance of relationships in establishing a successful foundation and is an acronym for United People Living in Foundational Truth, or as Watson defines it, "that sphere of influence around each of us in which we have people that we can look at in their particular field of expertise and say 'I wouldn't mind being like that person.' "

Through his coaching and consulting organization, he works closely with a diverse group of clients, from individuals to sales teams looking for strategies to better connect with customers to young, at-risk high school students seeking life guidance as they head to college and the business world. Testimonials on his website feature a unique array of voices, including former Arizona State University head football coach Dirk Koetter, University of Texas Assistant Athletics Football Director George Wynn, sales professionals and football camp participants.

Sammecia Bagley, community affairs liaison for Bay Springs Inc. in Tampa, got an opportunity to work directly with Watson in 2008 when he led a football camp in partnership with the NFL Alumni Association for the nonprofit's participating foster youth. She was impressed with Watson and his team.

"They welcomed our organization with open arms. It was refreshing to collaborate with someone that you know really cares," she says. "Our youth could not stop talking about the camp and what a great time they had. Most importantly, they were able to see men as mentors doing something positive for them."

Paying It Forward

Since moving to Florida, Watson has been actively involved in the Tampa community, supporting such organizations as Boys & Girls Clubs, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. He also established his own foundation, UpLift Excellence Foundation, which has allowed Watson to support local youth and families in other ways including food drives, free football camps and an athlete scholarship program.

"Sports have been a big deal to me and a great foundational teacher for me," he says. "I've always felt that I should give back in whatever community I was living and that it would be a bridge-building opportunity to help me continue to become the man I want to become and show another young man or young woman how they can pass it on, too."

Bagley sees Watson's charisma and ability to motivate as his greatest strengths in impacting others. "He sends inspirational messages and initiates thought-provoking conversations that ultimately help others to change their lives for the better," she says.

This past summer, Watson was excited about a personal milestone -- turning 40 -- and hosted a gala event in his hometown of Fort Valley in mid-August. Proceeds from the weekend of birthday events benefited his foundation and the community efforts it supports.

Watson hopes that in whatever role he serves that he is able to help others find their way to their goals.

"Most people have great ideas, but the problem lies in not having a plan to carry them out. They have big dreams but need an analytical person to come and show them how to achieve those dreams," he says. "I feel like this is my calling in life."

Chris Kuhn is a freelance writer who lives and works in the 'burbs of Tampa with her husband and her assistant, a 12-year-old dachshund-Chihuahua. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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