FOXBOROUGH -- Miami Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael remembers the first time he spotted Benjamin Watson. McMichael was entering his junior season at the University of Georgia and was running through drills over the summer.
``When Ben came by, we all thought he was in the NFL already," McMichael recalled yesterday. ``Here's this big dude, a specimen, and he's telling us he's transferring [from Duke]. When I found out he was a tight end, I was thinking to myself, `I should probably leave school now.' "
Instead, McMichael stuck around, the two struck up a close friendship, and they later hatched what they hope becomes a longtime tradition of tight end success at Georgia.
``We call it `The Dynasty,' " explained Watson, the Patriots' third-year tight end, in the days leading up to Sunday's game against the Dolphins. ``We consider it a privilege and an honor to be part of the tradition -- each guy trying to hold up his end of the deal and just try to keep it going."
They're off a good start.
McMichael got things going when he was selected in the fourth round of the 2002 draft, and he's since totaled 231 catches and 15 touchdowns over four-plus seasons. Then came Watson, who was tabbed at the end of the 2004 first round and is leading the Patriots this season with 12 catches. Watson was followed by Leonard Pope, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals this year in the third round.
Back on the Athens campus, the talented Martrez Milner is the next in line. And that doesn't account for former Patriot and current Vikings tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who played at Georgia in 1997-98. Watson said he's looking forward to meeting Wiggins when the Patriots visit Minnesota Oct. 30.
To recognize their bond and to salute their alma mater, both Watson and McMichael have rooms in their homes dedicated to their Bulldog days. Watson's is over his garage and includes signed jerseys from McMichael and Pope, as well as the jersey he wore in the Sugar Bowl, among other items.
Meanwhile, McMichael jokes that his wife, Cawanna, gave him one room to dedicate to Georgia ``and that's the room I spend the most on." It includes signed jerseys from former Georgia teammates in the NFL, such as Watson, Steelers running back Verron Haynes, Broncos offensive tackle George Foster, and Saints defensive lineman Charles Grant.
Both Watson and McMichael said many of their friends have rooms dedicated to their alma mater, although Watson has noticed it doesn't seem as prevalent in the Northeast.
For the 25-year-old Watson, the room is a reminder of where he came from, and a time in his life when he met McMichael.
``Randy was a mentor when I transferred to Georgia, kind of like the big brother I never had," Watson said. ``I transferred there because I saw they had great tight ends playing there, with a guy like Randy and Jevaris Johnson. I went there and from Day 1, he showed me the ropes, taught me stuff, looked at film with me, helped me become a better player."
McMichael, now 27, remembers the two hitting it off from the start.
So when McMichael was drafted by the Dolphins, it was no surprise that Watson was there when McMichael got the call. Then, when Watson experienced the same thrill two years later, McMichael was sitting right beside him and was ``the first to give him a hug."
They were part of each other's weddings, and usually talk every Thursday night, catching up despite the daily grind of their NFL schedules.
``Our personalities are a little different, he's a little more of a vocal guy, more emotional, and I'm more reserved," said Watson, noting that he has a similar friendship with other Georgia tight ends such as Pope, Milner, and his former roommate, Robert Brannon. ``I think playing-wise, we're more similar. When we were at Georgia, I definitely emulated some of the things he did."
Watson said he will be keeping a close eye on the Dolphins' offense Sunday, specifically watching out for McMichael.
``It's one of the times when I definitely make it a point to watch the other team's offense," Watson said. ``Randy loves the game, studies the game, and to me, is just a dependable player. He's a passionate guy."
It will be similar on the other sideline.
``I enjoy watching him play; he's a freak," McMichael said of Watson. ``You can tell how much he's matured and developed since he came into the league. He's an explosive player."
Back at Georgia, coach Mark Richt said McMichael and Watson have succeeded in starting ``The Dynasty."
``No question it's an identity thing for us right now," said Richt, who is in his sixth season as coach. ``Jim Donnan did a great job when he was here recruiting tight ends and using them in his system. When we got here, we had some outstanding players at that position and tried to continue using them in a way that would allow each one to reach his potential -- and for the most part, each of them has."