It's impossible to be a football fan and not enjoy the time you spent watching former Houston Texans and current Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt dominate. On the field, the three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner is one of the greatest defenders to ever live. Off of it, he's a Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year honoree, spearheaded a $41.6 million fundraiser to rebuild Houston after Hurricane Harvey, and has the coolest pregame routine you'll ever see.
But how much is the future Pro Football Hall of Famer worth? We dove in to find out.
Justin James Watt was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin alongside his younger brothers — Derek Watt and T.J. Watt — both of whom are NFL players with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before he was ever an NFL superstar, Watt's first love was actually hockey, which he played until age 13 on teams that traveled to places like Canada and Germany.
Imagine that 6-foot-5, 295-pound monster roaring at you on skates with a hockey stick? Yikes.
After playing tight end and defensive end for Pewaukee High School, Watt was regarded as only a two-star prospect by recruiting services heading into his senior year. He chose to attend Central Michigan University out of high school as a tight end, but after one season, Watt left CMU and then took community college courses while delivering pizzas to make money. He then enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, just a few hours from his hometown.
It was with the Wisconsin Badgers that Watt's dominance first earned national attention.
Over two seasons, Watt racked up 36.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, one interception and even blocked four field goals.
In his final season of college football, Watt won the Ronnie Lott Trophy for his work on and off the field, was named Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big Ten and academic All-Big Ten. Named his team's MVP that season, Wisconsin finished 11-2, climbed as high as No. 4 in the AP Poll, and reached the Rose Bowl.
The two-star recruit decided to forego his senior season and became the No. 11 overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft.
J.J. Watt's NFL Highlights
Entering his age 32 season in 2022, the final of his NFL career, there were few things left for J.J. Watt to accomplish in professional football.
Five times he's earned First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors with some of the greatest single seasons in NFL history. Four times he's finished with more than 16.0 sacks in a season, which ties Hall of Famer Reggie White for the most such seasons all-time. Watt has accumulated 111.5 sacks as of his retirement announcement, which is incredible considering his stats include nearly two full years that he missed in 2016 and 2017 amidst two back surgeries, plus another surgery to fix a fracture in his left leg.
Watt returned to form in 2018, leading the league with seven forced fumbles, and he's shown no signs of slowing down in the latter part of his career.
The one thing that eluded Watt, however, was postseason success. In eleven career playoff games with the Houston Texans, Watt's only managed 6.0 sacks and three wins, and failed to make it past the AFC or NFC Divisional round. Even with a potent offense led by quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans couldn't reach the franchise's first AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. Now, Hopkins, Watson and Watt all wear different jerseys as the Texans begin their long rebuild.
J.J. Watt's Contract and Salary
All those sacks and quarterback hurries earned Watt a six-year contract extension worth $100 million in 2014. At the time, it made Watt the second-highest-paid defender in NFL history. and the highest-paid non-quarterback at the time of signing. The deal included $51.9 million in guaranteed moola, a $10 million signing bonus, and an average salary north of $16 million. Watt's deal was later extended through the 2021 season to help the Texans with salary cap space.
That mega-deal came after Watt's four-year contract, $11.2 million rookie deal as a first-round pick.
Following the 2020 season, the Houston Texans released the then 31-year-old professional football player, ending his reign of terror in the Lone Star State. The Arizona Cardinals then swooped in and snatched up the defensive star on a two-year, $28 million deal.
When the NFL legend hangs up his cleats at the end of the 2022 NFL season, Spotrac estimates Watt's career earnings, including bonuses, through twelve seasons at $129.4 million.
Over the years, Watt's been a marketing magnet for some massive companies, including Gatorade, Reebok, Verizon, Ford, HEB Grocery and NRG Energy, the last of which is also the namesake of Houston's football stadium in Texas.
Watt's appeared in numerous commercials for companies like Papa John's, American Family Insurance, Bose, Yahoo! Fantasy Football, and appears in several National Football League campaigns including the Play 60 initiative.
He and his brothers also began hosting a game show on Fox in 2020 called "Ultimate Tag."
Forbes estimated in 2015 that Watt earns about $7 million off the field in endorsement money alone.
It's not breaking news that J.J. Watt is one of the most charitable professional athletes to ever live, but Watt's generosity was engrained at an early age. His parents, Connie and John Watt, had the Watt brothers raking leaves and shoveling snow at an early age. John was a fireman, so this kind of community service was expected.
I don't even think J.J.'s parents understood the impact their oldest son would have, though.
Watt's $41.6 million of Hurricane Harvey relief funds helped re-build more than 1,100 homes, distribute 239 million meals, and create 971 childcare centers to help hundreds of thousands of children.
The Justin J. Watt Foundation has funded more than 500 schools in 36 states across America to create after school athletic programs for middle school-aged kids. As of this publishing, the organization says more than $5 million has been distributed around the country since it was founded.
The giving never ends, either. Watt partnered with Omaze in 2019 to give away a new F-150 Ford Raptor, a $100,000 check for a down payment on a house, and a chance to hangout with Watt and his fiance at a hotel in Houston.
What doesn't this man do?
J.J. Watt's Wife and Family
In May 2019, Watt proposed to long-time girlfriend Kealia Ohai, a professional soccer player and team captain with the Houston Dash. The two officially tied the knot in the Bahamas in February 2020.
After her national-championship college career with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Ohai's appeared in over 100 games in the National Women's Soccer League and has been called up to the United States Women's National Team on several occasions.
After the Texans captured the AFC South division title in 2018, the couple celebrated the only way that seemed fitting; they added two new puppies to their family, named Tex and Finley.
J.J. Watt Net Worth 2022
There are conflicting reports about Watt's wealth depending on where you look. Celebrity Net Worth says J.J. Watt's net worth in 2015 was $10 million. That same year, Forbes estimated Watt's net worth at $27.9 million. Considering his annual salary and numerous endorsement deals, it's likely that Watt is worth more than $50 million in 2022.
It's been a long road for the future Hall-of-Fame American football player. But time and again, Watt proves that perseverance and good deeds are the bedrock for a great life, and those are values we all should strive try to attain.
This article was originally published on October 10, 2019, and has been updated since.
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