FOXBORO, Mass. — Stephen Gostkowski entered last week as the second-oldest player on the New England Patriots’ roster behind quarterback Tom Brady.
He’s now the third-oldest following the return of a familiar face to Foxboro: 38-year-old tight end Ben Watson.
Gostkowski, 35, is one of just six Patriots players who were around for Watson’s first stint in New England, which lasted from 2004 through the 2009 season. After stints with the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, Watson reunited with the team that drafted him last Friday, signing a one-year deal to help the Patriots offset the loss of Rob Gronkowski.
“I just remember walking in when I was a rookie, and I was like, ‘Man, that dude looks like the Under Armour mannequin when you go to the sports store,’ ” Gostkowski said Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. “But Ben’s a great dude, a really good guy, and it’s cool to have one of the oldies back.”
Watson certainly qualifies as an oldie. He, Brady and kicker Adam Vinatieri (now with the Indianapolis Colts) are the only players from the Patriots’ 2004 Super Bowl championship team still active in the NFL.
Gostkowski joined the fray two years later in 2006 and now is entering his 14th NFL season. He’s kicked in six Super Bowls, winning three.
“A lot (has changed),” Gostkowski said, reflecting on the early years of his career. “You have less and less in common with the guys. I mean, I get along with everybody, but I can’t go running out, hanging out, chasing chicks with a lot of the young guys. But being one of the older guys, it’s cool. You don’t really go tell people how to do things, but people do come to the older guys and ask questions — not necessarily about football, just how they’re like in the locker room, where people live, just stuff like that.
“There’s a respect in the NFL of guys who play for a long time, especially with the same team, and that carries over from any position to where it’s kind of like a fraternity, so to speak. You see a guy like, ‘Oh, that guy played 10 years in the NFL. He must have done something right. So to get little comments like that is pretty cool.
“But I’m just having fun. This keeps me feeling young. I get to bring my kids into the locker room during training camp. My daughter’s been to three Super Bowls and she’s not even 3 yet. My oldest son has been to 5. It’s a dream come true. I wouldn’t change anything for the journey I’ve been able to have, and I look forward to continue trying to make a couple more memories.”
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images