NEWPORT, Tenn. — Cocke County junior Ben Watts knew that his style of play was more physical than most.
"He's probably the hardest hitting kid that I know," Cocke County football head coach Scotty Dykes said.
Watts added that he never really thought about playing it safe when he was leading the defense as a middle linebacker. Watts said he suffered something like nine concussions heading into this season, and had no choice but to start considering the risk.
"It was preseason, I told my parents I'm getting one more [concussion] and then I'm done," Watts said.
That "one more" happened on the opening kickoff of Cocke County's week three matchup against Heritage. He said this concussion was worse than all the previous ones combined, and he decided to quit football.
"Having it all taken away in one game like that, it's very hard," Watts said.
On top of the emotional toll, this concussion has had a dramatic impact on his daily life as well.
"Most days I have to write stuff down, like stuff that I have to plan because I won't remember it the next day," Watts said. "On my own, I can't remember individual events during the day."
Watts has relied on a strong support system of family and loved ones during his recovery process. Head coach Scotty Dykes reached out to Ben the day after his concussion to make sure he knew there was still a spot for him on the team but in a different role.
"He said, 'if you need anything let me know, and we'll have you a coaching polo when you get back,'" Watts said. "I was like, 'what?'"
Watts jumped right into his new position just a couple of weeks after his injury, and he hasn't missed a beat.
"He's coaching like he's been coaching for ten years right now," Dykes said.
Watts said he has moved past feeling sorry for himself, and his focus now is helping his teammates improve on the field, especially the right way to hit to avoid injury.