As of Tuesday, December 27, former Texans player JJ Watt has announced his plans to retire following the 2022 NFL season. This marks the end of a dazzling 12-year career with accolades, accomplishments, and memorable moments. But, while his future lies in Canton, Watt brought so much more to the field than just his game; he brought a city together.
Texans Tenure Highlight Of Watt’s Career
The Houston Texans drafted JJ Watt with the 11th pick in 2011, which was a decision met with mixed reactions by the fans. Some fans booed the selection, and others gave Watt the monicker “pizza boy” (since he worked at a Pizza Hut before playing football at Wisconsin. ) Not surprisingly, he ended his career with every hater silenced – earning three DPOY awards, a coveted WPMOY award, and almost earning an MVP. He also collected over 100 sacks and all but secured a first-ballot entry into the Hall of Fame.
JJ recently told a story about how he was almost cut from the Texans in 2011 for “being an awful player” after a series of games where he struggled to execute his coaches’ assignments. However, while Watt’s rookie year ended up being what most would consider a “down year,” notching only 5.5 sacks, his 2012 season yielded something completely different. He exploded for 20.5 sacks (tied for his career high), 16 passes defended, 39 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles.
After his explosion on the scene in 2012, Watt never looked back. He went on to earn Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2012, 2014, and 2015. In 2014, Watt was in strong contention for the MVP award, putting together an incredible defensive season with 20.5 sacks, two defensive touchdowns, and several snaps on offense for three touchdowns. At the time of his retirement announcement, Watt has 107.5 sacks, 387 solo tackles, 66 passes defended, and two interceptions.
Watt’s Legacy In Houston Extends Beyond Texans Organization
While there is absolutely no denying JJ Watt’s legacy is indelibly tied to the Texans organization, Watt endeared himself to Texas natives just as much for his work in the community as he did for his work in opponent’s backfields. From hurricane cleanup to after-school programs, Watt has changed the lives of thousands through his commitment to charity.
The JJ Watt Foundation was founded in 2010 while Watt was still in college. Over the last 12 years, his foundation has provided over $5,000,000 to 6th-8th after-school athletic programs, including dozens of schools in Texas. In 2022, schools in Kaufman, Mathis, Spring, and San Antonio received grants from the foundation to help buy new football, soccer, and basketball materials for the school year.
Additionally, when the greater Houston area suffered devastating damage in 2017 from Hurricane Harvey, Watt led the charge to raise over $37,000,000 in relief funds for those in need. The money that he raised helped rebuild over 1,000 homes, feed over 200 million people, and rebuild the lives and dreams of countless human natives.
JJ won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2018 as a tribute to all he had done during his time in the league. While his other accolades are undoubtedly impressive, the Walter Payton Man of the Year award is among the most prestigious NFL awards. Combined with his tenacity on the field, interactions with fans, and legendary trash-talking, it’s no wonder many Texans fans will cherish their JJ Watt jerseys for years to come.
Canton’s First Texans Member?
While JJ Watt has accumulated almost every imaginable award during his NFL tenure, one final accomplishment awaits the boy from Pewaukee–the NFL Hall of Fame. Watt will be eligible in 2028 and is almost guaranteed to be a first-ballot entry. The burning question for most Texans fans: will JJ Watt will retire as a Texan? Only one man can answer that question, but fans should be hopeful that Watt will reunite with a city that cherishes him as much as Houston does. One hell of a legacy for one hell of a player.