Although no official noise complaints have ever been filed, there’s often quite a ruckus to be heard at Angela Watson’s home in Aiken, S.C., during the NFL football season. When her son, linebacker Dekoda Watson, takes the field with his San Francisco 49er teammates, friends and family know better than to bother Angela.
“Nobody better come and ring the doorbell,” she says, “because they’re not getting in. Don’t call me, because I’m not answering the phone.”
When Tampa Bay snapped up her son in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Angela wasted no time morphing into a Buccaneers fan. Since then, she has spent time as a Jaguars fan, a Cowboys fan — that one came easy — a Patriots fan, and a Broncos fan. Now it’s the San Francisco 49ers she cheers for on Sundays, but whichever team Dekoda may play for, they can count Angela Watson as a diehard supporter.
“We always root for Dekoda,” she says with conviction. “We dress up. If we’re not at the actual game, we still make a big to-do about it. Even my neighbors — they may support another team — but when Dekoda’s playing, they put on a 49ers jersey and everything. The whole neighborhood is rooting for him.”
When Dekoda thinks about all the things he’s learned from his mom, the former Florida State star says it was the way she always protected him and his sisters that sticks with him the most.
“When it comes to my kids,” he says, “I always protect them at all costs. When I say that, I don’t mean walking around carrying a gun or anything. I mean protecting them with education and support. I want to make sure that I raise them up the right way and prepare them for life, just like my mom did.”
Angela traces her own protective nature to the days when she would get bullied at school and come home to tell her mother.
“She would always promise that she would go out to the school tomorrow and handle it, but tomorrow never came,” she remembers. “I felt like I was just out in the world on my own, like I didn’t have a protector. So as my kids grew up, I just didn’t play with anybody messing with my children. I don’t care if it was the teacher, the principal, or a 4-year-old in the schoolyard.”
To this day, Angela says she still starts phone calls to her son by asking him if anyone was mean to him.
“He always tells me he’s a grown man now,” she laughs, “but I’ve been asking that question ever since I can remember.”
Another trait Dekota shares with his mom is a healthy ambivalence about what other people think. Angela recalls one day in particular when she was without transportation and told Dekoda it was OK if he stayed home.
“I told him he didn’t have to go to practice,” she says, “but he said he had to go. It was coming up a storm, but he went and got his sister’s pink bicycle and rode it to practice in the rain. He didn’t care if people picked at him. He was just so determined. If you just mention ‘pink bike’ today, the whole town knows the story.”
Despite everything Angela has done to help her son realize his dream, it’s something she did for herself that may ultimately have made the largest impact.
“My mom was one of the first in her family to be able to go to college,” Dekoda says. “When she was getting close to her graduating, I know she was worried about paying the bills and how expensive college would be for us. So the day she graduated, I made a promise that I would get a scholarship and go somewhere where I could be somebody in life. I held my promise and got a scholarship to Florida State, and now I play in the NFL. I owe a big tribute to her for the sacrifices and all the struggles that she went through.”
Angela says her son “doesn’t owe us anything” — that she and her husband were simply doing their jobs. For Christmas three years ago, Dekoda decided to give them something, anyway: a two-story house with the basement and big screened-in porches his mom had always wanted.
“He doesn’t even let us pay tax and insurance,” Angela says. “He’s seen us through. He saw that we almost lost our house three times trying to send him to combines and different things. He saw when we didn’t make a house payment because we wanted to make sure he had what he needed. We never thought in a million years that he knew about the foreclosures and how we struggled, but he did. He just doesn’t want us to struggle anymore.”