J. J. Watt, born Justin James Watt, is an American football player for the NFL’s Houston Texans football team. He plays as a defensive end after being drafted by the Texans in the 2011 NFL Draft. He played college football in Wisconsin before becoming a professional football player.
High School Prodigy
Watt was born March 22nd 1989 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Like himself before becoming pro, Watt’s brothers are both students and football players at the University of Wisconsin. Before his passion for American football, however, Watt was an avid hockey player, having been part of a team since he was four years old. He played until he was 13 when he gave up the sport because of conflicting time schedules and financial woes. It was during middle school that Watt became passionate about football, as well.
During his time at Pewaukee High School, Watt’s athleticism began to shine. He was a four-year letter winner in football, basketball and track & field. During his senior year of high school, Watt was selected to be a member for the first-team All-State. Additionally, it was during his senior year that Watt’s athleticism in football was especially noticed, earning him the Woodland Conference Player of the Year Award. He would also earn awards in the first-team division for All-State, County, Area and Conference as both defensive and tight end.
Like his father, Watt was also recognized for his athleticism in track & field. In 2007, Watt won the title in the WIAA Division II Championship for shotput. He set a new school-record with his throw, which was half an inch shy of 60 feet even.
During his senior year, Watt received a scholarship offer from Central Michigan University, where he spent his freshman year. He played for the team under the impression that he would be scoring touchdowns, but as the end of the year drew to a close, he realized this was not to be the case.
Fearful that remaining there would ruin his chances to grow as a player and wanting to remain closer to home, Watt left Central Michigan University after his freshman year and returned to Wisconsin. He would join the University of Wisconsin as a walk-on, though his hope was to play on the team as a defensive end. During his time at Central Michigan, Watt did receive two receptions for 23 yards in a game against Kent State, marking a career high for the young athlete.
During his time at the University of Wisconsin, Watt would see his career and skill as a college football player explode, garnering him lots of attention on a national scale. Although redshirted for the 2008 college season, he was named Wisconsin’s Scout Team Player of the Year.
In the following year, he would play 13 games as the team’s defensive end. He finished the 2009 season with admirable statistics, including his (at the time) career-high of two sacks against Hawaii earlier in the season. The next season Watt also played 13 games, leading the team in tackles for loss, quarterback hurries, forced fumbles and blocked kicks as defensive end. In 2010, Watt earned the Ronnie Lott Award, an esteemed honor granted to athletes who perform outstandingly both on and off the field, encouraging many young athletes to focus on more than just their athletic career while attending college. He was also voted the team’s MVP for the 2010 season, while also receiving nominations for academic and athletic related awards given his skill and performance.
Despite his astounding college career, Watt would chose not to finish his career as a college athlete. Instead, he would leave school to enter the 2011 NFL Draft.
At the 2011 NFL Combine, a week-long competition for college footballers to demonstrate their abilities in front of NFL coaches, managers and scouts, Watt was a top performer in all categories with the exception of the 40 yard dash. In April of that year, he was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, being the overall 11th draft pick that year. In July, Watt was signed to the Houston Texans for a four year contract.
Much like his college career as a defensive end, Watt’s first year as a professional football player was amazing. He started all 16 games of the season, finishing with an amazing 48 solo tackles and 8 assisted tackles. Additionally, he was responsible for 5½ sacks. In two games alone he had garnered 11 solo tackles and 3 assisted tackles, with an interception returned for a touchdown. For his outstanding performance and team effort, Watt was named the Texans Rookie of the Year.
The following year was one of the best seasons for a defensive player in the entirety of the NFL history. Watt finished the season with a total of 69 solo tackles and 12 assisted tackles, 20½ sacks (coming in just 2½ shy of breaking Michael Strahan’s single-season record for number of sacks, which he set back in 2001) and four forced fumbles. In a game against the Detroit Lions in November, Watt racked up three sacks, at the time giving him a total of 14 ½ sacks, breaking the Texan record for number of sacks in a season, which had been previously held by Mario Williams, a defensive lineman who played for the Texans from 2006-11.
For his continual efforts at proving himself as a professional athlete, Watt was award several accolades that season, including the AP Defensive Player of the Year, for which he received 49 of the 50 votes cast. He is the first Texan player to receive a Player of the Year award, and is the 17th defensive lineman overall and 8th defensive end specifically to receive the award since 1971.
Despite 2013 being a losing season for the Texans overall, Watt was still able to create an impressive season that aptly demonstrated the young professional’s athleticism and skill. He ended the 2013 season with 65 solo tackles and 15 assisted ones. He also racked up 10½ sacks and 4 forced fumbles, which recovering two fumbles for his team. He was named Pro-Bowl Captain for that year.
In a game against the Oakland Raiders in 2014, Watt became the first defensive player in Texan history to score a touchdown from scrimmage. He made the touchdown after entering the fame as a tight-end on a one-yard catch. He scored his second touchdown of the season against the Buffalo Bills, which he picked off the Buffalo’s EJ Manuel. Watt returned the pick for an 80 yard touchdown, tying him for 6th for the longest interception returned by a defenseman. Watt scored his 5th touchdown in a November, making him the first defensive lineman to score five touchdowns in a season since 1944.
For his amazing season, Watt was named to the 2014 All-Pro First Team as a defensive end. Additionally, he was named to the All-Pro second team as a defensive tackle. To make his season complete, Watt was also awarded the Defensive Player of the Year Award, making him one of the few players to receive the award multiple times. He was also the first defensive lineman since 2008 to receive votes for the MVP award.
Watt currently holds the Houston Texans’ franchise records for both most career sacks (surpassing Mario Williams, who holds 53 compared to Watt’s 57) and the most career forced fumbles.