#4 Most Underrated Athlete in Philly Sports History: Ricky Watters

The defining moment of Ricky Watters career in Philadelphia came in his first game as an Eagle.  On September 3, 1995, the Eagles opened up the season at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During the second-half, Ricky Watters alligator-armed not one, but two Randall Cunningham passes over the middle of the field.  It didn’t help that the Eagles lost 21-6, and Watters was held to 37 yards rushing with two fumbles.  Sure, Watters was booed by the hometown fans for not sacrificing himself for the team, but those boos were nothing compared to the aftermath of Watters’ postgame comments to the media.

Watters was honest, maybe too honest:

“Hey, I’m not going to trip up there and get knocked out.  For who? For what? I mean, there’s another day. I’m going to make a whole lot of plays. I made a whole lot of plays where I was at before. I’ve always made plays.”

“For who? For what?”   Those four words damned Ricky Watters in this town.  He had committed a cardinal sin.  The fans and the media jumped on Watters.  The Inquirer labeled it “Wattersgate.”  His words were spread in large print on the back cover of the Daily News.  No matter what Watters did from that point forward, he didn’t have a chance to be accepted in Philadelphia as one of our “Philly guys.”  And it’s a shame, because his on-the-field play stood in stark contrast to that comment.

His numbers are staggering.  After scoring three touchdowns in a winning-effort for San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX, Watters came to Philadelphia as a free agent.  It didn’t take long for him to make an impact.  In 1995, he rushed 337 times for 1,273 yards and 11 touchdowns.  He also added 434 yards on 62 receptions.  In ’96 he amassed 1,855 yards from scrimmage with 13 total touchdowns. In ’97, he had 1,550 total yards and 7 touchdowns.  He never rushed for fewer than 1,110 yards and never caught fewer than 48 passes.  From ’95-’97, he carried the ball 975 times, more than any other player in the NFL.  In ’95 and ’96 he was selected to the Pro Bowl team and named All-Pro.

Even though he spent just three seasons in Philadelphia, Watters ranks 6th in franchise history in rushing and 5th in rushing touchdowns.  He is the Eagles all-time leader in rushing yards per game.

Based on his numbers, Watters is clearly one of the best running backs in Eagles history.  But he didn’t let his numbers speak for themselves, and so he lands on this list as the 4th Most Underrated Athlete in Philadelphia Sports History.

Previously:

#15- Byron Evans#14- John LeClair#13- Von Hayes#12- Freddy Leach#11- Brad McCrimmon#10- Del Ennis#9- Eddie Plank#8- Dick Allen#7- Kimmo Timonen#6- Bobby Abreu#5- Joe Frazier


5 Comments on “#4 Most Underrated Athlete in Philly Sports History: Ricky Watters”

  1. “For who? For what?” was such a bunch of nonsense, and it makes Philly fans look like such goons. They would have rather he killed himself and been lost for the season on a screen pass with one minute left in a 15 point loss than stay healthy and gain 1300 yards. What knee-jerk foolishness.

    • Lalli says:

      Does Ricky deserve more love from Philly fans? Sure. He was a stud. But he has himself to blame for his treatment here.

      Watters’ statement is absolutely antithetical to everything Philly expects in its athletes. This town has always put hard-work, toughness, and self-sacrifice well ahead of talent. That will never change. It’s why guys like Aaron Rowand and Ian Laperriere are beloved and guys like Bobby Abreu and DeSean Jackson are questioned.

      It’s less “knee-jerk foolishness” and more holding athletes to a standard. You don’t have to be the most talented, but you better work your ass off and give yourself up for the team.

      The only blame that rests on the fans/media is the fact that they failed to look past his words to his play. He was an undeniably tough, hard-nosed runner that didn’t miss one game. And he played with the type of emotion for which Dawkins is revered. The City just couldn’t forget “For who? For what?”

      • It’s total knee jerk foolishness. He DID go out on almost every play. But by not being an idiot and taking a shot to the head in a lost cause, he became a pariah to Eagles fans. It’s so unbelievably absurd I don’t see what the defense is for it. I get that people in Philly like their athletes to play hard and be tough. AND NOBODY PLAYED HARDER OR WAS TOUGHER THAN RICKY WATTERS. If there are Eagles fans who still get their panties in a bunch over something he said in some bullshit post-game press conference and ignore what he did on the field it’s not because of a “standard”. It’s because they’re idiots. I understand what you’re saying (That this is Philly and that’s how things are), but just because it’s the way things are doesn’t mean it makes any rational sense.

        • Stouffer32 says:

          @Johnny Goodtimes – Eh, what the hell are you talking about?

          @Lalli – What treatment? Soon after that game, Watters was loved here. Sure, there were a couple who never liked him, but he was very popular and well respected by fans.

          This was Watters first game in Philadelphia. It was not on TV as the game was blacked out. And, it was an all-time dramatic pull up/alligator arm, on a big play. It looked horrible in slow mo, during the highlights that most Philadelphians got to see, and I’ve heard that it looked terrible live at The Vet. Philly fans didn’t know this guy, he was a loud mouth 49er who may or may not have been passionate about being an Eagle. Then, he answers questions about this awful looking bail, on his first day as an Eagle, by responding to questions about why he didn’t lay out for that play: “For who, for what?” He followed it by saying he was going to make a lot of plays for this team. Now, I’d contend that Eagles fans were appropriately concerned, if not appalled, with that statement, (you call an overreaction). I’d also contend that no grudge was held and, over the next few weeks, all was forgotten by just about all Eagles fans as he quickly won fans with his heart and toughness. Ricky Watters was a loved and respected Eagle.

          So, I really don’t agree with your characterization of the events. For who, for what? does not define Watters time here, it defines how his dramatic debut was received, that’s all. It was a memorable moment, and one of the incredible parts of it, is how fans witnessed him live up to his claim, and then some.

  2. D Waite says:

    I agree a little with everybody on Ricky W. He did disappoint me greatly with the alligator arms play which I did see live and Couldn’t Stand at the time… and the subsequent FWFW comment… Man, was I pissed at him. But everything he did after was in opposition of that moment in time. I did respect him not long after up to the end of his time here. Maybe it was the lukewarm overall team results that had me forgetting about how good he was… or how I wanted to not like him at first because he came from Cali and the niners… a 6-9-and 1 final season kinda sealed the deal and relegated him to MEH status overall. That’s a shame. I’d love to hear his thoughts now about his time here.


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