Watt’s Leadership an Asset
Fans treat their sports figures like heroes, but in Houston one sports figure actually became a hero. JJ Watt is a great athlete on the field, but he is an even better man off of it. In his 10 years with the Houston Texans, the 6 foot 5-inch defensive end was a five-time pro bowler, a five-time 1st team All-Pro and one of only three men to be chosen three times as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The 31-year-old Watt had several seasons where he was plagued by injuries but still accomplished a career 101 sacks. He finished out his last season with the Houston Texas with five sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception that he ran for a touchdown.
Hero Off of the Field
Houstonians will miss the off-the-field persona of JJ Watt. Early on JJ proved to be a caring human being. Watt started a foundation and gave his money to schools for equipment and uniforms. He gave his time to kid’s organizations. He even showed up to high school football games, and just enjoyed the sport, and inspired the players as a result.
Watt heard of a young man, Marlin Lee III, who had once written scouting reports about him in Wisconsin who had come home to Houston and was in the hospital with end-stage Ewings Sarcoma. Watt dropped in before a game to see him. He donated personal items for the family to auction to help with medical bills. He spent time with Lee’s son.
Watt promised to wear his father’s “Lee Strong” bracelet and hold it up in his honor when he made a sack in the game, he made two, and you better believe he held that bracelet up high.
No one asked JJ to do these things, he genuinely cares. JJ is a personal hero to all of the kid’s lives who have been influenced by him and to families like that of the late Marlin Lee III.
The Miracle After Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey made Watt a hero to the whole city of Houston. In a conversation with his mom, Connie Watt, she told me “ JJ called and said he wanted to do something for the city. He thought he would donate $100,000 and was going to challenge the public to match it. Well, he did that, and the public matched it in two hours.
The donations just continued to rise. We woke up the next day to millions of dollars in donations. We had to seriously begin to figure out how best to distribute the money coming in. It didn’t stop with money donations, truckloads of goods began to come in as well. In the next few weeks, the account rose to $37 million, and the logistics of distribution became a “full-time job.”
The Justin J Watt Foundation rebuilt more than 1183 homes. They built or recovered more than 971 childcare and after-school programs with more than 108,000 kids affected. They provided more than 239 million meals to displaced citizens and first responders. The events of 2017 after Hurricane Harvey made JJ Watt a true hero to the grateful city of Houston.
Watt Wants Out
On February 12th, Watt sent out a video to the citizens of Houston. He told them that he had asked for his release from the Texans and that it had been granted. He thanked the city for always being behind him. However, after ten years with the Texans, he wants to aim for a championship.
Watt Flies Over to 17th Ranked Cardinals
As a result, Monday JJ tweeted a picture of him wearing an Arizona Cardinal t-shirt with the caption “Source=Me”. nodding to his acceptance of a reported $31 million deal with a $23 million guarantee. Houstonians understand why JJ would want to leave the last place team for higher-ranked 17th place Arizona in the NFL power rankings. Former teammate DeAndre Hopkins is excited about Watt joining his new team. He put out his own tweet with a picture of the two of them, saying, “Let’s finish what we started!”
Watt’s Beloved No 99 is Retired
The move to the Cardinals does bring up the question of JJ’s beloved jersey number 99. He wore it in college at Wisconsin and throughout his 10 years with the Texans. The Cardinals retired #99 in honor of Marshall Goldberg, who was a four-time All-Pro and part of the 1947 Championship team, as well as an honored Navy Veteran of WWII. Which brings up the question, what number will he wear in Arizona? Well JJ spoke to the family of Goldberg and they gave their blessing for him to wear their father’s honored No 99.
Houston is sad to see Watt go. They do understand that although he was a wonderful part of rebuilding the city, it isn’t fair to expect him to stay to rebuild the team. Wherever JJ Watt is he will be a leader on the field and a hero off the field.