watt an honor
J.J. Watt scores ultra-elite Houston Texans Ring of Honor and will receive award when team faces his brother
In news that should surprise no one who's followed pro sports, Houston sports, or pop culture in the last decade, the Houston Texans announced on Monday, June 12 that legend J.J. Watt will officially be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor when the Texans take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, October 1.
As serious fans are aware, Watt joins only two other Texans icons: owner/founder Robert C. (Bob) McNair and All Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, who played alongside Watt.
Fittingly in Watt's storybook life and career, the October 1 game will see Watt and the Texans greetT.J Watt, J.J.'s younger brother who is also standout defensive end for the Steelers and also a University of Wisconsin alum. Until recently, the Steelers actually boasted two of Watt's brothers on the roster: fullback Derek Watt played out his contract and is currently a free agent. (Here's hoping Derek can sign before October 1.)
"Good barbecue and pickup trucks..."
"Twelve years ago, I was just a little kid," Watt, sporting a blue and red "Houston" shirt, recalled in a video message to fans (a pretty darn big kid, J.J.). "I was coming to a city I knew not a whole lot about. I knew there was good barbecue and pickup trucks — that was about the extent of my knowledge. What I didn't know was how incredibly special the people, the community, the family was. And I'm so grateful and thankful that you accepted me into that family."
"Damn, am I proud to be a Texan," he continued, noting that it took some time to warm up to him (a nod to the crowd that decried his first-round draft status in 2011, wrote comically ill-informed and inane click-bait articles, and even booed him on Draft Day).
He also cited the ups and downs on the field and all that Houston endured during his 10-year tenure — and the bond it created. "We got a whole lot of memories to make — if you'll have me as part of your family again, moving forward. Let's get back together, H-Town."
Welcoming Watt back to the "family" again won't be difficult for his legion of local fans; his line to that end is yet sign of his trademark humility with fans and Houston. Not since Hall of Fame Houston Oilers icon Earl Campbell has Houston seen one player put the city on their broad shoulders.
A demon on the field...
As the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, he immediately endeared fans all over the globe with his Captain America-style image, Navy SEAL-style work ethic, and all out havoc on the field.
In seemingly no time, offensive and head coaches across the NFL were planning how to stop Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2012, 14-15), five-time Pro Bowl selection (2012-15, 2018) and five-time First-Team All-Pro (2012-15, 2018). A beast and nightmare for hapless opposing offensive lineman and offenses, he netted six AFC Defensive Player of the Month awards and seven AFC Defensive Player of the Week awards while with Houston.
Unlike so many fine-tuned pro football players — especially defensive — whose athleticism and battlefield wear cause myriad injuries, Watt stalwartly started each of the 128 regular season games he played in, and seven of eight of the Texans' playoff games from 2011-2019.
His 101.0 sacks that he recorded in just 10 years were the second-most in the NFL during that span. He also tallied 172 TFLs — tackles for loss — marking the most in the NFL since TFLs became an official stat.
Many an opposing QB needed extra ice time and pain treatment from his franchise-record-setting 281 quarterback hits (how Houston is that stat?). He also set records with 26 multi-sack games, 25 forced fumbles, and 16 fumble recoveries. The punishing pass rusher led the NFL in both 2012 and 2015 with 20.5 sacks.
His Pick 6 play during the Texans' first-ever playoff game, where he batted down a pass from Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and rumbled in for a touchdown, not only served as a terrifying calling card for the rookie, but would later inspire one of his many nicknames: "J.J. Swat."
...and an angel off the field
For all of those stats, Houstonians may well forever remember 41.6 million — the number of dollars that No. 99 generated after an impromptu, online fundraising effort in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. What started as a simple ask for help after the storm became a runaway, feel-good charitable moment across the country — a testament to Watt's superstar power and his ability to influence the public and raise awareness.
Little wonder that this hometown hero earned the elite and prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award that same year. Watt would be forever and inexorably tied with Houston — even when he shocked fans with his surprise release from the Texans, new career with the Arizona Cardinals, and stunning retirement announcement last year.
Watt a star
One part single-man football army, one part leadership quote machine, Watt evolved into the epitome of the athlete doing it right — on the field and off (even his "Dream Big. Work Hard." Twitter bio is a simple lesson for young athletes everywhere), deftly navigating the intersection of sports and pop culture. Flashing his boyish grin and monstrous biceps, he was a natural fixture on local and national TV commercials, and a viral sensation with ominous warnings to opponents, like this scary "ya mess with me..." declaration in 2014.
Hollywood jumped on the WattWagon, with Arnold Schwarzenegger calling Watt a future action star and offering some motivation after a big playoff loss. Watt was a natural for H-E-B and national ads, as well as a hilarious and standout debut on Saturday Night Live in 2020.
Speaking of Hollywood, J.J. and lovely wife Kealia are totally sitcom-ready, as evidenced in the hilarious video announcement (catch our five favorite moments are here) that they are investors in the English soccer team Burnley FC. The team, nicknamed The Clarets, most recently competed in the English Football League Championship — known as "the Championship" in England — but will soon play in the top-tier Premier League.
J.J.'s retired-guy husband schtick coupled with Kealia's "not now, honey" is a show we'd watch.
An H-Town homecoming
"We are so excited to have J.J. Watt join the Ring of Honor as our third member," owners Janice, Hannah, and Cal McNair noted in a statement of the Ring of Honors day. "Everybody knows how much J.J. means to our family, the Texans organization, and the entire City of Houston. He is one of the most dominant players in NFL history and he created a unique and irreplaceable bond with our fans. J.J. has always kept a special place in Houston's heart and we're thrilled to welcome him back. On the behalf of the entire organization, we can't wait to give J.J. and his family the celebration he deserves on October 1st."
One wonders — even with new stars CJ Stroud and defensive beast Will Anderson's home debut on September 17 — if October 1 will be the Texans most-watched game this year.