The league fined Watt — the league’s co-leader in sacks — for “forcibly hitting in the knee area or below” in the Steelers’ 41-17 win over the Falcons on Sunday.
Watt was called for roughing the passer on the play, which came in the second quarter. He said after the game that he was surprised by the call.
“I understand the rules. I’m not a dirty player,” Watt said. “I tried to pull off him at the end. Whether the ref saw it or not, I understand why they call it. It was a low hit. But I tried to pull my arms off. … It puts us in a bind because I don’t know what else I can do.”
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who is tied with his brother atop the league standings with six sacks, tweeted that he couldn’t believe the league issued a fine for the hit.
T.J. Watt sacked Ryan three times in the game, including a strip-sack that resulted in a touchdown.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was critical of the officiating in the game, saying, “Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get ’em correct. And so I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you. But that’s all I’m gonna say on it.”
HOUSTON — Before the Houston Texans‘ game on Sunday night, defensive end J.J. Watt had the chance to watch his younger brother T.J., an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, deliver another impressive three-sack performance.
J.J. also knew that with those three sacks, T.J. had taken the lead in the family with six on the season and that he was tied with Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins for the NFL lead.
“I knew he had six sacks, so I knew I had to get at least one otherwise I couldn’t go back to my phone after that,” J.J. said. “Then, I missed the one, so I was really p—-d off.”
J.J.’s sack came late in the fourth quarter and ensured that there would be a tie atop the family and NFL sack leaderboard for at least one more week.
T.J. also had a three-sack performance in Week 1 against the Browns and J.J. had three sacks in Week 3 against the Giants.
According to T.J., the back-and-forth is just “healthy competition.” J.J. called he and his brother “each other’s biggest fans.”
“It’s also been competitive,” J.J. said. “It’s always been like that. This is just the first time in the league we’ve gotten a chance to both be healthy and do it the same time. But, no, we’re each other’s biggest fans. We each root for each other as much as we can, whenever we can. I want to see him get as many sacks as he can possibly get, just the same way he wants to see me. We compete and there’s definitely a little bit of underlying competition there, but at the end of the day, if he gets 500 sacks I’d be happy as hell.”
Still, the fact that the brothers share the lead is cool for his mom, Connie.
“I’m sure my mom thinks it’s a lot cooler than I do,” T.J. said. She’ll take a picture of it and our names will be next to each other and it will be cool for her.” J.J. said he’s always known what his brother is capable of, “and it’s fun for the rest of the league to be able to see it.”
“It’s pretty wild when you go and you look at the sack sheet and you see our names next to each other,” J.J. said. “We used to beat up on each other in backyard and now we get to see our names at the top of the NFL sack charts. So, it’s incredible and I’m lucky. I have two incredible brothers [T.J. and Chargers fullback Derek Watt] and I’m very fortunate.”
Added T.J.: “That’s something I’ll never take for granted is to be able to sit on the couch and watch them play. It’s pretty special.”
But although J.J. and T.J. may be tied for the lead in sacks, the older brother pointed out on Wednesday that he is ahead in another category.
“Today he got his second AFC Player of the Week or whatever, but, I mean, I got the Player of the Month last month,” J.J. said. “So, I think that’s a little cooler.”
HOUSTON — What started as a simple message turned into $37 million.
“I’m sitting here watching the news and checking the Internet and seeing everything that’s going on with Hurricane Harvey and the damage it’s causing back home,” Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt said in a video he posted to Instagram on Aug. 27, 2017, from his hotel room in Dallas. “It’s very difficult.
“That’s our city. It’s very tough to watch your city get hit by such a bad storm and not be there to help. Not be there to help with the recovery. Not be there to help with the process. It’s very tough.”
So he made a request.
“So what I do want to do is I want to start a fundraiser. Because I know that these recovery efforts are going to be massive. I know that there’s going to be a whole bunch of people that we need to help get back on their feet.
“Whatever you can donate, please donate to help these people out.”
Watt set up a page on YouCaring.com, donating $100,000 of his own money and setting the goal at $200,000. He raised that in two hours.
For the next three weeks, the online fundraiser continued to grow. A year later, the money distributed by Watt to help the relief efforts has made a huge impact on the lives of those who received help.
“We go to some of the areas where we’ve rebuilt houses and we go and visit a house and I talked to one family, and I was looking at the houses around them that were still pretty beaten up,” Watt said. “They were like, ‘We haven’t seen those people since.’ A lot of people literally abandoned their house, whether they went somewhere else or — so, I think that while if you look at everyday life for most people, you may say, ‘Yeah, they’re in working, regular order,’ but I think there’s still a lot of people going through a lot of stuff.”
More than $30 million of the money was split up to benefit four organizations — Americares, Feeding America, SBP and Save the Children — and was designated to be spent over the next 18 to 24 months. Watt spoke with people who handled donations after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans to see what they did well and what mistakes they made and said he made it his mission “to ensure this money makes as large of an impact as possible” and that “the entirety of the funds would be utilized here in Houston and the surrounding areas for those who were affected most by Hurricane Harvey.”
‘Oh my gosh, this is J.J. Watt’
Watt arrived at Covenant House on a Tuesday in December, alone. As he got out of his truck and walked into the space used to house homeless youth, he was quickly spotted.
“It took [the youth] just a few seconds to go, ‘Oh my gosh, this is J.J. Watt that just walked in,'” Covenant House’s executive director Leslie Bourne said. “And they were overjoyed with him. He spent so much time individually in talking with a lot of the youth. He’s really just a genuine person, and that comes out very much when you first meet him.”
Covenant House, which is just one of the organizations funded by the money given by Americares as part of what was raised by Watt last year, is in its 36th year serving as a shelter and a comprehensive provider of services for homeless youth (ages 18-24) and their children.
Watt stayed for more than an hour, talking to the young adults, taking photos, and seeing the damage that had been done by Harvey. He stood by what had been a nursery, which had an exterior wall that had to be replaced because of storm damage. And he toured a wing of the Crisis Center that had been quickly repaired, in part because of the money he raised.
“It was just a big boost to the kids,” Bourne said. “Their lives already are filled with trauma, and then the ones that are here because they lost everything due to Harvey … it was just a big bonus and a big plus to their lives to have someone show up who genuinely cared about their stories and genuinely cared what they were going through.”
The money Watt raised has had a lasting effect on Houston and the surrounding areas affected by the storm, which was the deadliest hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Harvey flooded more than 300,000 structures and was directly responsible for at least 68 deaths.
Shelter from the storm
One of the people aided by the money donated to Covenant House through Americares is Eric, a then-19-year-old father of two living in Sugar Land, Texas, when the hurricane hit. As the water rose, Eric, his girlfriend and her kids, ages 1 and 2, had to be evacuated by the Coast Guard on a large military vehicle to a shelter at Fulshear High School, more than 20 miles from Sugar Land.
Eric and his family stayed in the shelter for two weeks. After that, they became nomads, paying for hotels or rooms wherever they could find somewhere to stay. It was at one of these stops that Eric was robbed. Without any money to pay for a hotel, he turned to Covenant House.
“Especially when you’re a young parent, having to relocate, find shelter … it’s a heavy weight on your shoulders to do that all by yourself,” Eric said. “They really accepted me and my family with open arms. I really can’t even thank them enough.
“They sheltered us from the storm. Not Hurricane Harvey the storm, but the storm of everyday life. When you don’t have anybody to depend on, I knew I could depend on them here.”
In part because of the funding raised by Watt, Eric had a safe place for his children.
“Without that I probably wouldn’t be here, and I feel like I’m making a step in a positive direction from that. I couldn’t thank him enough,” Eric said. “I can nurture them here. We can color, read books and everything. It’s a surreal feeling actually just being here, knowing that this is a place for my kids … to love on them.”
‘A place to call home’
John, 21, found his way to Covenant House immediately after Harvey struck. The morning after the storm first hit, he went to the nearest freeway to get as high up as he could. John had stayed at Covenant House before, and after losing everything during Harvey, he knew where he could turn for help.
“Covenant House has given me a place to call home and basically a family to call family,” John said. “Coming back to Covenant House, everything was better. We’re a family here, so basically having family around makes me feel like everything will get better.”
Along with housing, Covenant House offers services to help youth get back on their feet with education and career planning.
“[Covenant House made me] a better person,” John said. “It’s like Covenant House made me a [more] mature person than I was back then. I’m going to work, I’m focused at school. I want to become a pharmacy tech.
“At first I didn’t take life seriously, but Covenant House has prepared me to be out on my own and get my own place and keep my job.”
Covenant House kept its doors open during the storm, offering shelter to anyone who needed it. Immediately after Harvey hit, the shelter saw almost a 20 percent increase in homeless youth seeking assistance. The shelter serves an average of 90 young people every night on its Houston campus, located in the Montrose neighborhood, and has a strong street outreach program that has been directly impacted by the money Watt raised.
“There’s still homeless [people] out there,” Bourne said. “We see them on our street outreach program. I think we found 18 of them in July. As people are trying to get back in their homes or they’re still waiting on repair money for their homes, there’s still fallout a lot of times for that older youth that hasn’t transitioned out of the family. So we’re still prepared to take them in for the next year or so.
“Some people are starting to move into their homes, but it’s still not over. So we’re still expecting youth needing our services from the hurricane.”
Rebuilding homes and lives
At the end of November, Watt had the chance to see some of the work being done in person with the money that was raised. It was the first time he was able to get to a site after spending the previous month and a half recovering from surgery after he broke his leg during Houston’s Week 5 game.
“I went and saw a few of the homes that are being rebuilt by SBP after being completely gutted from floor to ceiling [and even the roof],” Watt wrote on Instagram. “The people and their stories were both heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time. … Each of these families went through so much devastation and heartbreak, yet remain so positive and energetic, it was truly inspiring to spend time with them today.
“The work that SBP is doing in rebuilding these houses and helping to get people back in their homes is incredible, and thanks to your donations they will be building hundreds of homes over the next two years, each with a story like those great folks and each eager to get back into the comfort and safety of their own home.”
SBP was founded in 2006 by by Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney, who were living in Washington, D.C., at the time but volunteered at St. Bernard’s Parish in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. They started SBP six months after Katrina hit Louisiana. Since then, the organization has rebuilt more than 1,500 homes, and it opened an office in Houston in September 2017 to help people get back in their houses after Harvey.
The grant Watt provided SBP was for $8.5 million. According to Cli Roberts, the executive director of SBP Houston, each house costs about $35,000 to repair, so $3.5 million is going toward rebuilding the first 100 homes in 2018. The other $5 million has been granted to other organizations that are also rebuilding houses across areas impacted by Harvey.
“It was incredible to see what J.J. Watt did by raising all of that money,” Roberts said. “So many people believed in him and donated, and that was incredible for SBP to be a part of it and to be trusted with that money and be able to go out and rebuild homes. One of the biggest barriers to recovery is funding, so knowing that we have this funding through Year 1 was just really relieving, knowing that we can move over 100 families home this year.”
SBP relies on volunteers to help rebuild homes. Colby Williams joined SBP because he has been here before. In 2005, he was living with his mother on Mandeville Street in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit. Their home was too short, so they had to evacuate to his grandparents’ house and use a sledgehammer to break into the attic, where he said they spent “hours on hours” waiting to be rescued.
“Ever since I was involved in the storm, I had gotten help from other people, and I just wanted to fill that role,” Williams said. “I’ve always felt the need to help other people. And to be that support, that pillar for them to lean on.”
Williams said he has always been a football fan and “a huge fan of J.J. Watt,” but after seeing the time and effort Watt put into raising the money for those affected by Harvey, “it meant a lot.”
“We were able to get new tools and we were able to fund a hundred homes because of the J.J. Watt funds,” Williams said. “And now we have a fully stocked warehouse.”
Much more to be done
Watt has been an important part of this Houston community since he was drafted No. 11 overall in 2011. His list of donations and charitable contributions is long and admirable, but there is no doubt — even with the Hall of Fame-level of success he has had on the field — that what he did in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey a year ago will be his legacy in Houston.
Despite all of the work that has been done to restore Houston, a drive around the city reveals that there’s much more to be done.
“I think J.J. put it the best when he said last year: ‘It’s not going to take like a month. It might take a year, it might take two years, it might take three years,'” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said.
Although rebuilding Houston will take more time, there are tangible improvements and impacted lives that show exactly what the money Watt raised has done — and will continue to do — for Houston.
“The city’s been extremely resilient,” Watt said. “People have done a lot of work to get back to working order, I guess, but I think there’s also tons more work to be done. I think that it’s been out of the headlines for a long time and there’s been not a lot of, obviously, attention on it for a long time, but I think there’s still so many people that need a lot of help.”
HOUSTON — As the regular season approaches, J.J. Watt knows there are questions about his health and return to the football field. There’s one he has been asked several times this offseason and during training camp.
Even if he can stay healthy, will the Houston Texans‘ three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year be able to play at the level he has in the past?
Though Watt has had plenty of time — “the last two years were not fun,” he said — to think about that while he’s spent the past 10 months working his way back from a broken leg, he said he hasn’t given much thought to the answer to that question because “it doesn’t help. It doesn’t do anything for me.”
“I’m just focused on today,” he said. “I’m focused on tomorrow. I know what expectations I have for myself but … any way I answer that question, I’m screwed. You want me to say, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be incredible,’ then you’re setting insane expectations. I say, ‘No, I think I’m going to suck,’ that doesn’t bode too well for myself either.
“There’s really no good way to answer that question. … Through all my injuries, that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned, is control what you can control. All I can control is today; workouts, practice, meetings, and then tomorrow I’ll be able to control that.”
Watt, who didn’t play in the preseason opener against the Chiefs, has been a full participant in practices during training camp (with the occasional planned day off) and says there’s “no doubt” he’ll be playing in the season opener at the Patriots on Sept. 9 (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
He has played in just eight games in the past two seasons because of injuries. He played three games in 2016 before aggravating an injury that required a second back surgery in less than three months. Then last season, just as the Texans’ star defensive end was starting to play more like the Watt of old, he broke his left leg in Week 5 against the Chiefs.
Those injury woes came after Watt put together a four-year stretch of dominance rivaling that of any defender in NFL history. From 2012 to ’15, he was named first-team All-Pro four times, a Pro Bowler four times and NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times and led the league in sacks twice. However, his last sack came on Sept. 18, 2016 — almost two years ago — and if the Texans are to be contenders again, they need their star causing havoc.
Including Watt, the Texans’ defense has several positions in which health is a question, especially along the front seven. If Watt, along with outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, can come back and stay healthy this season, Houston could have one of the best front sevens in the NFL. Along with nose tackle D.J. Reader, who has been touted as highly underrated by his teammates, the Texans have a talented group that should be able to improve from the injury-riddled defense that struggled a year ago under then-defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
“I think I’m going to come out stronger because of it.”
Houston’s J.J. Watt on dealing with injuries the past two seasons
“We want to be the defense we know we can be, and I think that last year — anybody will tell you — it wasn’t what it should be,” Watt said. “We’re really excited about some of the additions we’ve made, Tyrann [Mathieu], getting Whitney [Mercilus] back from injury, getting myself back.
“But it’s all talk until you do it. It all comes down to the first game and making sure we do it.”
There’s also another question Watt has gotten since his second season-ending injury in two years.
“Have there been days in recovery during which you feel you’re ready to hang it up?” Watt was asked.
The 29-year-old acknowledged there have been times he has thought about whether he would even be able to come back from his latest injury.
“You’re sitting there on your couch and you’re like, ‘How the hell am I going to get back to where I need to be?'” Watt said. “You’re sitting there and you can’t even do a leg raise, you can’t even do anything and you’re like, ‘Is this possible?’ Then you just take it one day at a time, step by step.
“I’m happy where I’m at, being able to look back on it now, and I’m thankful for the moments that I went through, but I think I’m going to come out stronger because of it. It’s one of those things, people tell you, ‘You’re going to come out stronger on the other side of this injury. Minor setback for a major comeback.’ You hear all of these things and you’re like, ‘Are you sure?’ Then you get to the end and you’re like, ‘It is true.’ It sucks, but it is true and I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Now, Watt said he doesn’t really think about his broken leg any more when he’s out on the field.
Watt signed a six-year deal worth $100 million, with $30.88 million guaranteed in 2014 and is owed $15 million over each of the next two seasons, then $15.5 million in 2020 and $17 million in 2021. Though Watt has a big contract and the Texans must decide whether to commit money to Clowney, there’s no reason to believe Houston would be interested in parting ways with Watt, even if he were to get injured again.
And it’s because of what he’s been through — even before these trying past two years — that Watt knows the path he has to take is focusing on now and not looking ahead.
“It doesn’t help me at all to think about, ‘I wonder if in December I can have this many sacks.’ I mean, it doesn’t matter, because if I don’t take care of August, then I’m never going to get to December,” Watt said. “So it’s just one day at a time, one workout at a time, one practice at a time.
“That’s how I got to be what I was in the first place. I mean, you don’t get there by thinking ahead. Of course you have big dreams and you have big goals, but you accomplish those dreams and goals by working one day at a time.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Shortly after Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt broke his leg in early October, he set a goal for himself: Start training camp healthy from Day 1.
On Thursday, he did just that, taking part in drills with “no restrictions” as the Texans began training camp at The Greenbrier.
“I think I’m starting in a really good place this year,” Watt said. “It feels like I’m starting a regular training camp. I feel like I’m starting fresh. When I started the rehab process, I wanted to earn a fresh start, earn a chance to go out there, start a training camp from Day 1 [and] go out there and play.
“And I think that clean slate has come, and I’ve got a chance to once again try and write my own story.”
Watt has played in only eight total games since winning the award for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015. Three games into the 2016 season, he re-injured his back and needed a second back surgery in less than three months. Watt was healthy for the start of the 2017 regular season, but as he was getting into form, he broke his leg in a Week 5 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’m so fortunate to be out here,” Watt said Thursday. “I could look back at these last two years and say, ‘Man, those are two of the s—tiest years of my life.’ But I can also look back at them and see how much I’ve learned and how important it is for me to go back out on this field and play at the level I know I can play to show that I can overcome what I’ve been through.
“When you go through something like this, it’s a climb back to the top. And you want to climb that mountain. And I’ve had days when you take three steps forward, and then there are days when you take one step back. … I went through some very tough times. But where I’m at today because of all of those tough times is a great place. And I’m very happy, I’m very excited to be out here, and I feel really good.”
Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus tore his pectoral muscle in the same game that Watt broke his leg, and he was also ruled out for the rest of the season. The Texans hope this is the season that the trio of Watt, Mercilus and 2014 No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney can stay healthy for a full season.
Clowney played the first 16-game regular season of his career in 2017, but needed minor knee surgery in January.
Still, despite the fact that Clowney spent the majority of the Texans’ first practice working on the side instead of participating in team drills, Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he’s not concerned about the outside linebacker’s knee.
“Some guys are needing to just get back into a little bit better football shape right now, [and Clowney] comes under that category. But he’ll be ready to go pretty soon here,” O’Brien said. “I’m not concerned about him though. Because of his rehab, he wasn’t able to be in OTAs, so we’re trying to be intelligent about the way we bring him back.”
If the three defenders can stay healthy all season, Houston could once again have one of the best front sevens in the NFL.
“We have a lot of talent in a lot of places on this team,” Watt said. “We know what this defense is capable of when we’re playing at our highest level. Now it’s just a matter of making those things all come together at the same time.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va — The Houston Texans will open training camp on Thursday morning with quarterback Deshaun Watson and defensive end J.J. Watt “cleared and ready to go,” according to general manager Brian Gaine.
Both players are coming off serious injuries that forced an early end to their seasons and time on injured reserve. Watt broke his leg in the Texans’ Week 5 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs; Watson tore the ACL in his right leg in an early November practice and had surgery shortly after. Throughout the Texans’ spring workouts, Watson and Watt both said they were optimistic they would be ready for the regular season.
“[Watson is] cleared and ready to go,” Gaine said. “We’ll be efficient, we’ll be smart [and] we’ll be productive at the same time. But he’s full-go, ready to go [and we’ve] just got to be smart.
“[Watt is] full-go, he’s ready to go, just like we talked about with Deshaun [Watson]. He is coming off of a major injury. … We’re going to get our work done. But at the same time, [there’s] that healthy balance between being smart and going and getting it.”
In seven games last season, Watson threw for 19 touchdowns and 1,699 yards with eight interceptions before tearing his ACL. At the time of his injury, Watson was tied for the NFL lead in passing touchdowns and was on pace to shatter the rookie record of 26 passing touchdowns in a season. Watson was able to participate in 7-on-7 team drills during OTAs but did not face a pass rush.
Watt primarily worked off to the side during the spring workouts, but said in April that his rehab was “going really well” as he works back from his leg injury. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has played in just eight games in the past two seasons due to injury. Prior to the back injury he suffered during the 2016 season, he had not missed a game in his NFL career.
“His idea of a cheat-day meal was Chipotle,” said James, a former Badgers defensive end who will be in Arizona Cardinals training camp. “He’s always disciplined, always working when no one’s working.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp July 25, but Watt already is approaching sizable sophomore expectations as if camp started weeks ago.
Watt has spent the past month back home in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, for a rigorous schedule with trainer Brad Arnett at NX Level, pounding two gallons of water a day and helping the family collect wood for post-movie night fires in the backyard.
Watching his brother J.J. win three Defensive Player of the Year awards with the Houston Texans and grace multiple Sports Illustrated covers has inspired Watt. But he’s not seeking such fame right now.
“I’ve got a boring lifestyle. I’m not about any of that [other] stuff,” said Watt, 23. “I work out, I go home, I grill burgers and hang out by myself or hang out with a few of the guys on the team. I’m not here for anything else but football.”
The Steelers don’t doubt that mindset. Watt was the only NFL linebacker with at least 50 tackles, five sacks, five passes defended and an interception last season. He led all rookie linebackers with seven sacks.
Watt put those numbers to bed months ago, telling himself more splash is needed.
“No stats matter. It’s at zero,” Watt said.
Each summer, the Watt brothers rely on Arnett to set the plan in motion with a five-day-a-week schedule that accounts for every minute, just how they like it.
“They understand the importance of the little things,” Arnett said. “Very consistent with always doing things the right way, the same way, all the time.”
J.J.’s rehab from a left tibial plateau fracture has affected his schedule, but T.J. and older brother Derek, a Los Angeles Chargers fullback, start each NX Level session with soft tissue exercises, loosening muscles with a lacrosse ball and a series of jump exercises.
Arnett fires off buzz phrases such as “ground base activity” and “T-spine rotations” and “snatch variation” Olympic lifting when describing the workout. Then there’s plyometric and de-acceleration work. All the moving parts coalesce to put the 2018 goal into focus: Be more explosive.
“It’s a new season. It’s a clean slate. I’ve got everything to prove,” Watt said. “I’ll go out there and try to provide as much splash.”
The Watts spend Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday in the facility and do something active for themselves on Wednesdays: fishing or bike riding, for example. “One day a week for them,” Arnett said.
Even more intense is the diet regimen, which Arnett says requires about 7,000 to 8,000 calories and two gallons of water a day for Watt, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds.
Watt targets three balanced meals and three hearty snacks a day, along with pre- and post-workout supplementation.
Breakfast staples include egg whites with yolks, turkey bacon or sausage, potatoes, fruit and granola. Beef jerky, sandwiches with avocado or tossed salad and Fairlife milk sources are good snacks options (no nuts — Watt has an allergy).
Dinners with lean proteins should accompany vegetables and potatoes with color, typically orange or purple.
But having fun is allowed, too.
“I don’t want these guys to feel like they aren’t living,” Arnett said. “Nothing wrong with a piece of pie or burritos or having a couple of beers. It’s all life.”
The simple life
The Watts spend many summer evenings in the backyard, where T.J. plays an essential, but modest, role.
“I’m the wood collector,” Watt said. “My dad’s a firefighter, so he’s always the one who likes to start the fire. I trust him more. Whenever he’s not there, I do the gas fire to be safe.”
Watt might not be spending countless hours in the log cabin that J.J. popularized, but the lumberman mentality is very much in place when back home.
Movies and video games are cool but utilized in moderation. The family’s idea of a hobby is going on annual cruises to various beach spots, laughing at jokes inside cabins and stuffing faces with buffet fare.
When it comes to football, James sees the same person who used to slip into the Badgers facility on Sunday afternoons for sprints and film work by himself.
“He was never the one to make wrong decisions,” said James, who also trains at NX Level. “He knows what he wants to accomplish, and he won’t let anything get in the way of that.”
That means creating a football identity apart from J.J., while utilizing the wisdom he has imparted. T.J. learned the art of being a pro from J.J., who stressed hand usage at the line of scrimmage to unlock NFL potential.
If production keeps climbing, so will T.J.’s fame. He has the look — and the name — of a marketable star.
But T.J. feels too unproven to even entertain those thoughts.
“I see J.J. and it’s a whole other level. I’m as humble as it gets with that stuff because this can all be taken away so quickly,” Watt said. “So I have my older brothers to lean on when it comes to that stuff. Until that time comes, I’m just going to ball.”
The new look
Pittsburgh drafts first-rounders with the intention to play them early, but the way Watt snatched the starting outside linebacker job from stalwart James Harrison early in 2017 training camp made an impression.
For Watt’s sophomore campaign, the Steelers have a new challenge — moving him from right to left outside linebacker. Coaches believe Bud Dupree, who’s explosive but often overshot quarterbacks in the pocket last season, is best suited for the blind side. Technique and hands, Watt’s specialty, are crucial for the left.
As a result, Watt and Arnett spent considerable time working on right foot starts from two-point or three-point starts, utilizing hoop/cone drills and metabolics to add quickness.
“He’s got strength, strong hands, long arms,” Arnett said. “It will be hard to get in on him, and he understands how to use them.”
Back in Pittsburgh, coaches will make sure to humble Watt when necessary.
Joey Porter, once an imposing and unpredictable Steeler who is now Mike Tomlin’s outside linebackers coach, is not about to praise Watt’s coverage skills just because he locked up Jordy Nelson one time last year.
Watt got beat for a touchdown on the same play against Cleveland, Porter noted.
“I don’t just remember certain plays. I remember every play,” Porter said. “It’s all a work in progress.”
Porter is hard on every player when he shows cut-ups of the 2017 season, but he knows Watt will take it. And what Porter likes is Watt rarely makes the same mistakes twice.
“I know he’s going to work, I know he’s going to be in shape and doing the right things,” Porter said of Watt. “With him, make sure I get them to camp healthy and out of camp healthy.”
In May, Watt already had his sights set on next season. After an uncomfortably hot Steelers OTA session, Watt took to the tackling sled for about 10 minutes of one-on-ones, then lamented his need to make tackles in space in 2018, securing the first tackle so teammates don’t have to bail him out.
Despite playing 900-plus snaps as a rookie, Watt feels well-rested and ready to mold his masterpiece season.
“Chisel away at what’s going to be a finished product,” Watt said. “We’ve got a big ice block right now and we’re carving into it and making our sculpture.”
MADISON, Wis. — Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has donated $10,000 to help the family of a Wisconsin firefighter killed in an explosion.
A natural gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie led to an explosion Tuesday evening that claimed the life of Sun Prairie Fire Department Capt. Cory Barr. He leaves behind a wife and 3-year-old twin daughters.
Kate Cichy, a spokeswoman for GoFundMe, said in a news release Wednesday evening that Watt has donated $10,000 to the GoFundMe for Barr’s family. She added that the Sun Prairie community has already raised nearly $70,000 for the family.
Watt was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and played college football at Wisconsin. He has been selected to four NFL Pro Bowls.
The Ali award is part of the fourth annual Sports Humanitarian Awards, which will take place at The Novo at L.A. Live the night before the ESPYS. The awards, televised on July 24 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, honor athletes, teams and sports industry professionals who use the power of sport to make a difference in the world.
The awards are presented by ESPN and sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.
The Anaheim Ducks, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Fire Soccer Club and U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team are the finalists for the Sports Humanitarian Team of the Year.
Hospital for Special Surgery, Under Armour, UNIQLO and Voya Financial are the finalists for the Corporate Community Impact Award.
Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson and the U.S. Department of State Global Sports Mentoring Program are the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award honorees. The League Humanitarian Leadership Award will also be announced at the ceremony.
A variety of sports leagues nominated athletes, teams and corporations for the honors. An independent selection committee made the finalist selections and determines the winners.
Multiple sports leagues and/or governing bodies — including MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL, USTA, WNBA and WWE, as well as the Women’s Sports Foundation — nominated athletes, teams and corporations who are transforming lives and uplifting communities.
The finalists and winners have been determined by an independent selection committee, which includes: Nick Keller, Founder and President of Beyond Sport; Donald Lassere, CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center; Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA; Sab Singh, Founder of Sports Doing Good; Caryl Stern, CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF; and Eli Wolff, Director of the Power of Sport Lab and the Sport and Society Initiative at Brown University.
Net proceeds of the event benefit the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund at the V Foundation. Last year, more than $2 million was donated to the community on behalf of the Sports Humanitarian Awards. ESPN will also make a donation on behalf of the nominees. Lilly Oncology is returning as an event sponsor.
The Houston Texans defensive end now has a new title after he received an honorary doctorate from the Baylor College of Medicine on Tuesday.
I’ve had a lot of big dreams in my life, but not even I dreamt that I could one day become a Doctor. I am truly humbled and honored to receive the degree of Doctor of Humanities in Medicine from the Baylor College of Medicine! #CanTheyPutMDonMyJerseypic.twitter.com/7TyNKrvhh7
J.J. Watt is putting his new degree to use right away by handing out prescriptions to his Texans teammates and coaches.
“He wrote me up a prescription this morning,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “He told me to take three chill pills a day and call him in the morning. I thought I’ve been more chilled out, but I guess he doesn’t think so.”
Watt diagnosed defensive end Christian Covington with “weirdness,” with a prescription that read, “No Marvel movies for two weeks. Stiff drink x 3 twice/week. 1 hair color change.”
Hi my name is Christian and I am suffering from weirdness. I’d like to thank my personal physician Dr. Watt for diagnosing me quickly and getting to the bottom of this. There’s a long journey ahead but he assured me it will be a painful and tedious process. 10/10 would recommend. pic.twitter.com/SG6R3SLrmN