At a time when the National Football League is bombarded with negativity, the good guys around the league can easily be forgotten. Missing out on incredible role models like Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt would be a disservice to his legacy, and you’d probably miss out on a few smiles along the way.
Watt’s relationship with his brothers, Derek and T.J. Watt, both of whom also play in the NFL, is second-to-none. He famously raised $41.6 million for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in the Houston area. He also happens to have a pregame routine around the NFL that is the best part of every game with fans who arrive early to see the superstar in action.
Prior to games, Watt spends a few minutes circling every stadium playing catch with fans young and old. It’s something that has taken off like wildfire, as people get to the game early for the chance to toss a football around with a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
It’s a simple gesture, but seeing these kids’ faces light up when the 6-foot-5, 290-pound superstar tosses them a football is sheer joy.
And don’t think that Watt only pulls this trick out of his bag when it’s a home game at NRG Stadium in Houston. Over the years, the former college football All-American with the Wisconsin Badgers regularly warms up with fans all over the NFL.
“It kind of started because I wanted to find a new way to connect with the fans that would help them experience the game better, and I’m out there obviously warming up and hour and a half, two hours before the game anyway.
“If I was a kid, and I went to, say a Packers game as a kid, how cool would it have been if Brett Favre threw me a ball, you know? So, that’s kind of my thing is I’m just trying to leave those kids with an experience.” — J.J. Watt, per The Buzzer
The four-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl selection, who is having one of his best years in 2018, returned after missing most of the previous two seasons to a back injury and fractured left leg.
Through eight seasons and his first 100 games of professional football, Watt’s accumulated 440 tackles, 150 tackles for a loss, and his 87.5 sacks already ranks him among the top 50 players all time.
The kid from Pewaukee, Wisconsin was rated as a two-star recruit and the 1,320th-best player in the country coming out of high school. Not only is Watt a living legend on the gridiron, he is a testament that if you work harder than everybody else, and you do it the right way, you are the only obstacle in the way of reaching your goals.
Getting the chance to play catch with J.J. Watt is more than a cool story. It’s an honor for anyone who gets to a Texans game early enough to have that moment with a future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players in NFL history.