It was the news Houston Texans fans have been dreading. And so, it came from the hometown hero himself.
“I have sat down with the McNair family and I have asked them for my release and we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time,” J.J. Watt announced in a Twitter video on February 12.
Appearing in what appears to be his home or his getaway cabin, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and face of the team since 2011 described being “a kid from Wisconsin who had never been to Texas before.
Sporting a white cap and University of Wisconsin sweatshirt, he joked about being booed by Texans fans on draft night in 2011, but “...every day after that you’ve treated me like family and I truly feel like your family,” he added.
Houston, I wanted you to hear this directly from me... pic.twitter.com/YqT3P6Lb6l— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 12, 2021
Watt then said that he worked every day to earn fans’ respect and make them proud on and off the field. “You guys have given me everything and more and I can only hope you feel like I’ve given you everything I have.”
The future Hall of Famer expressed his love for this “unbelievable” city, noting that this is where he met his wife (soccer star Kealia Ohai) and made lifelong friends and teammates. He praised teammates, the front office, and the most humble of team staff.
He also gave a shout out to fans who would stop him everywhere, even those showing up at his house. “The connection is special,” Watt said, adding that he would “never ever” take it for granted.
So Watt’s next? The superstar said he was “excited and looking forward to a new opportunity,” but added that it is “tough to move on.” He thanked the team, McNair and family, adding a warm, “thank you Houston, I love you.”
Watt is one of only three players in NFL history to win at least three AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards, in 2012, 2014, and 2015. He leads the league in tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (281), multi-sack games (26) and sack yards (713.5), while ranking second in sacks (101.0). In 2020, Watt, who led the NFL in sacks twice (2012 and 2015), became the fourth-fastest player in NFL history to total 100.0 sacks, doing so in just his 120th career game, per team stats.
Famously in 2017, he raised a massive $41 million in Hurricane Harvey relief aid.
“Simply put, there has been no person in the past decade who has made a greater impact on the Texans organization than J.J. Watt,” said co-founder and senior chair Janice S. McNair, in a statement.
“Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love. J.J.’s impact on not only our organization, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise’s history,” said Texans chair and CEO Cal McNair in the same statement. “I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon.’ For now, we will build upon the foundation that J.J. created here and forge ahead with our unwavering mission to bring a championship to our city, create memorable experiences for our fans and do great things for Houston.”
Fans of the strapping star are already calling for him to join his brothers Derek and T.J. Watt in Pittsburgh. Time will tell if his sweatshirt is a clue that he might be headed to icy Green Bay.
This is a breaking news story.