What Do an NFL Star and a Robot Have in Common?

Ellen's Good News
J.J. Watt visits one of his biggest fans, 12-year-old Cristian.
J.J. Watt visits one of his biggest fans, 12-year-old Cristian.

NFL player J.J. Watt isn't just a champion on the field - he knows how to be a hero in real life.

The Houston Texans defensive end recently paid a surprise visit to Cristian Beasley, a 12-year-old suffering from leukemia. Cristian is too sick to go to school, so he uses the VGo telepresence system, which allows him to control a robot with a camera via a home computer to help him remotely participate in classroom discussions.

He named his robot Watt, after his favorite football player. When the athlete found out about Cristian and his robot, he knew he had to meet him.

"It's one of those things, it's a no-brainer," J.J. tells us in a Skype interview. "It's such a cool story and he's such a big fan, and he's really a special kid."

During his visit, J.J. and Cristian played hacky-sack and tossed the football around in the backyard. Cristian taught J.J. how to use the robot, and they both went to Cristian's school to meet his classmates and teachers.

"The coolest part of that day to me was at the end of it all," he tells us. "He just looked over at me and said, 'This is the best day of my life.' It was just one of those moments where it kind of all hit me, how much of an impact you can make and how special a day like that can be to someone."

The 24-year-old NFL player is always going out of his way to bring a smile to a child's face. He recently made 6-year-old Breanna's dreams come true when he "proposed" to her after watching a video of the little girl crying when she realized she was too young to marry him.

"Kids are the best. They're so innocent, that it's so pure and they're so real. The emotion is real, them being a fan is real," he says. "Those kids look up to us as role models, and they look up to us, hoping to one day be in our position, and it's such a cool position to be in... to make such a big impact in a child's life."

The footballer has been doing volunteer work since college, and has started his own foundation, the Justin J. Watt Foundation. "It's all about after-school athletics for middle school kids," he says. "Sports have taught me so much in my life; discipline, work ethic, teamwork, all these things have helped me on the field and off the field. Studies show if kids have sports after school, if they have some sort of after-school, extra-curricular activity to look forward to, they perform better in their classroom. They have a reason to do well in school and they have a reason to be disciplined and have time-management."

"I realize I've been very fortunate my whole life," he tells us of his efforts to make the world a better place. "My parents always taught me to give back. They always taught me to volunteer and give back because I realize how fortunate I am and I know that there's people that are not as fortunate as I am out there. I want to help them achieve their goals… I want to share my good fortune."