J.J. Watt always wanted a chance to go both ways. The hulking defensive end played tight end at Central Michigan after all — and No. 99 never doubted he still held the pass catching skills of player with a uniform number in the 80s.
Watt lobbied former Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak for the opportunity for more than a year. But under Kubiak, the idea of having Watt make an important tight end cameo in an actual game was always treated as something of a joke. Sure, Watt would take a few practice snaps in goal-line situations. But catching a pass in an real-live game?
You're kidding right.
Not anymore. Not under new Texans coach Bill O'Brien.
In many ways, the play shows how creative and unbound by conventional thinking Bill O'Brien can be.
In O'Brien's second game as an NFL coach, J.J. Watt didn't just run out with the Texans offense to line up at tight end. He had his Jimmy Graham moment.
After all-pro running back Arian Foster got stuffed on first and goal from the half-yard line, Watt lined up at tight end on second and goal. And somehow absolutely no one covered him. A play-action fake from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick froze the Oakland Raiders defense, freeing up Watt for an uncontested touchdown catch.
The highest-paid defensive player in football broke into a huge grin that could be seen through his face mask as he cradled the football. The Texans held a 7-0 lead after an 80-yard drive punctuated by a bit of smart fun.
J.J. Watt had his first career catch. And his first career receiving touchdown.
In many ways, the play shows how creative and unbound by conventional thinking Bill O'Brien can be. Kubiak was too terrified of the slim chance of Watt getting hurt on offense to really embrace employing No. 99 at tight end.
O'Brien went for it in game two.
And the move carries implications beyond just one memorable touchdown. Seeing Watt catch a touchdown pass seemed to give the entire Texans' sideline a jolt of excitement. Before long, the Texans pushed their lead to 17-0.
O'Brien might not be a cuddly, feelings kind of a guy. But it turns out, he's a player's coach in his own way.
Just ask a pumped-up J.J. Watt.