“Was not ready for that whatsoever. Truly one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Will cherish it forever.”
Former Houston Texan football star J.J. Watt played his final NFL game and walked off the field to a standing ovation from a roaring crowd. It was an emotional scene, but Watt had lots of practice after breaking down in tears watching a poignant video honoring him and his career earlier in the day.
In advance of his final game, the HBO documentary series Hard Knocks had their cameras rolling as coach Matt Burke pressed play on a video. As Watt watched, his brother T.J., also a professional football player, appeared on screen and paid tribute to the future Hall-of-Famer. Watt promptly welled up with tears.
As the video continued, Watts started sobbing as fellow football stars Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady all paid homage to the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Even as Brady was teasing him, Watts had tears pouring down his face. The waterworks continued as his parents, brother Derek, and his wife, and infant son appeared on screen. Watts was a tear-stained wreck, but the video concluded with an enormous round of applause from his teammates.
In sharing the video on social media, Watts wrote, “Was not ready for that whatsoever. Truly one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Will cherish it forever.”
Watts announced his retirement after the birth of his first child. He ended his on-the-field football career on a high note, and leaves behind a remarkable legacy, per reporting by to CNN, “with 114.5 sacks, 586 tackles, 27 forced fumbles and 70 passes defended in 151 games played.” Back at his former team in Houston, he still holds the Texans’ franchise record for most sacks with 101.
Over the span of his career he has also garnered several impressive accolades including being a seven-time All Pro, five-time Pro Bowler and was the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2017.
For all that he is remembered on the field, it’s the work he’s done off the field that has earned him a permanent place in our Southern hearts. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Watt harnessed a massive effort and raised millions in relief dollars for his adopted home of Houston. He used proceeds from his Reebok shoes to fund Honor Flights Network, a non-profit dedicated to providing veterans with closure and honor by transporting them to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. He paid for the funerals of those killed in 2018 at Santa Fe High School. And those are just a few of his many acts of kindness and generosity. His legacy away from football is as rich as the one he leaves on the field.
Congratulations, J.J.! We look forward to watching your next chapter unfold.
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