Top 10 Facts About J.J. Watt

Top 10 Facts About The Fascinating J.J. Watt

cover photo credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

Have you heard about JJ Watt?  The chances are that if you live in the US and follow sports of any kind you will have heard of the meteoric career of this rather shy, incredibly dedicated and extremely hard working football star.

Coming in at 6 foot 5, this incredible young man has the physique of a superhero.  He weighs in at just shy of 300 pounds and has a training regime that even the fittest of men would struggle to emulate. Known for his ability to flip tires, his signature move is the box jump – he can clear more than 5 feet from a standing start.  Named as Most Valuable Defensive player twice in just a few years and coming close to being voted MVP (almost unheard of for a defensive player) he has fast established himself as one of the most versatile and talented players in the game.  His recent contract extension saw him become one of the best paid football stars of his generation.

While JJ Watts is an up and coming young man, a new household name, there are still many things that you might not know about this fascinating defensive player.  Here is our list of the top 10 things you really should know about JJ Watt.

  1. JJ Watt’s Home Is In Wisconsin

J.J. Watt is from Wisconsin.
J.J. Watt is from Wisconsin.

JJ Watt was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1989 and attended Pewaukee High School.  Although Wisconsin is a long way from his career base in Houston he confirmed his intention to keep close links with his home state when he purchased, in December 2014, a log cabin on a large plot of land for about $800,000.  When he bought it JJ Watt said that it was an empty space in the middle of nowhere, a place where there would be nothing to distract him from his training.

Buildings described as ‘minimalist log cabins’ in the ‘middle of nowhere’ bring to mind simple constructions of the type lived in by Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family of pioneers.  JJ Watt’s cabin, however, differs from those simple buildings quite significantly.  The house is, to be fair, made of wooden logs but it is rather large, coming in at 4,500 square feet, beautifully furnished (although to be fair JJ Watt might have changed the furniture from that shown in the pictures which belonged to the previous owner) and is less than 3 miles from the nearest Starbucks and 15 miles from the town he grew up in.

While it may not be quite as minimalist as JJ Watt let on, it is certainly fairly low key compared with the homes of many other celebrities.  The 36 acres of land that surround the house should also give him plenty of opportunities for enjoying the outdoors with his family and, of course, following a rigorous training regimen.

  1. JJ Watt Is An All Round Athlete

J.J. Watt played hockey
J.J. Watt played hockey

Wisconsin is a hockey state so it should come as no surprise that JJ Watt grew up as a big hockey fan.  He learned to skate when he was just 3 years old and played hockey up until he was 13 years old.  He only stopped because of the financial difficulty of replacing and maintaining his equipment and the complications of scheduling his games.

As a child he supported the Badgers and still has signed posters from his childhood and he still tries to watch hockey games whenever he can.  His goal is to travel and watch hockey at the Olympic Games one day.

Watt’s talents do not just extend to Football and Hockey, however, as during his time at Pewaukee High School he also played basketball and baseball and excelled in track and field.  In his senior year he won an All-State Selection for shot-put gaining the 2007 state title in the Division II championship and setting a high-school record of 59ft, 11.5 inches beating his father’s record.  His younger brothers followed in a family tradition and one beat him by 2 inches, an achievement which makes JJ Watts both proud and, of course, a little mad.

  1. JJ Watt Was Regarded As Only A 2 Star Recruit

J.J. Watt was a dismal prospect. Boy were they wrong.
J.J. Watt was a dismal prospect. Boy were they wrong.

In proof that nobody is infallible both Scouts and Rivals got their rankings for JJ Watt very badly wrong.  Both ranked him as no more than a 2 star recruit and did not feature him as either a top tight end or top defensive end player for his class.

JJ Watt is not the only player to have outperformed his recruit rankings but he certainly left those who analyzed his high school performance with egg on their faces.  He has gone on to be one of the most versatile of all modern players and has had an excellent career to date.  Given his determination always to be the very best that he can be it would be no surprise to see his career blossom still further in the years to come.

  1. JJ Watt Started His College Career In Central Michigan But Moved To Wisconsin

J.J. Watt was a badger!
J.J. Watt was a badger!

JJ Watt took up the offer of a scholarship with Central Michigan but only stayed with them for one season.  He was played as a tight end and had been told that he would have the opportunity for touch down scores in offense, the reality turned out to be very different and the situation left Watts deeply unsatisfied.  At one point he was asked to consider moving position to play offensive tackle but Watts decided to move back home instead.  Watts gave up his scholarship in return for a walk on position with the Wisconsin Badgers.  Although there has been much speculation about the move, some citing a breakdown in relations Watts, maintains that he has a great fondness and respect for Central Michigan (he even has a CMU decal on his car) but said his decision to move was a combination of wanting the opportunity to play defensive end and to move closer to home.  He often states that he is particularly family and home oriented (see above with regard to his decision to buy his home in Wisconsin instead of Houston) and that distance from his loved ones was the clinching factor in his decision to move.

The move was a huge gamble, leaving a top rated team and a secure scholarship at Central Michigan for an unknown and uncertain opportunity in Wisconsin led to many people in both states calling him stupid but for Watts it was a gamble he was willing to take even Watt himself acknowledges that he could ‘have easily fallen flat on my face’.  He also acknowledges that the move led to some friction and while the players on the Central Michigan team understood that he was under-utilized, the coaches did not take his decision well.

The decision proved to be the right one; Watts was redshirted in 2008 and named the 2008 Wisconsin Scout Team player of the year.  He played in 13 games in both 2009 and 2010 with a total of 103 tackles over the two years.  In 2010 he received the accolade of being voted the MVP for the team.

  1. JJ Watt Moved To Houston For His Professional Career

J.J. Watt moved to the big city to start his professional NFL career.
J.J. Watt moved to the big city to start his professional NFL career.

Despite having claimed that homesickness was one of the reasons behind his move from Michigan to Wisconsin (see above) JJ Watt was happy to move to Houston for his professional career.

He entered the draft early, deciding to eschew his senior year to participate in the 2011 draft.  He proved to be a top performer in all categories other than the 40 yard dash (which he completed in 4.84 seconds) performing exceptionally well in the NFL Combine with 34 bench press reps, a 37 inch vertical jump, 120 broad jump, 6.88 seconds for a three cone drill and a 20 yard shuttle in 4.21 seconds.  He was the Houston Texan’s first round pick and the 11th overall pick for 2011.  He signed a $11.24 million contract for four years.

Watts immediately proved that he was a good pick.  In 2011 he started all 16 games played and by the end of the season he had chalked up 56 tackles (48 solo) and five and a half sacks.  2011 was also the first year the Texans went to the playoffs and Watts was named Texans rookie of the year.  By 2012 he was doing even better ending the season with 81 tackles (69 solo) 20 and a half sacks recording one of the best ever seasons for a defensive player with the NFL.  He received a slew of awards including Texans MVP, PFWA MVP NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year and AP Defensive Player of the Year.

  1. In 2014 He Became The NFL’s Highest Paid Non Quarterback Player

J.J. Watt makes bank!
J.J. Watt makes bank!

By 2014 and given his impressive record as one of the most valuable defensive players of all time there was some discussion in Football circles that JJ Watt was very underpaid when compared with others of the 2011 class.  While he had two years left on his contract and had proved to be one of the most valuable players in the Texan’s stable his low starting contract led to him being only the 9th highest paid of all Texan players, less than some rookies recruited that season.

That disparity was put right, however, when at the start of that season he signed a 6 year extension worth $100 million.  The contract saw him receive a huge $30.0 million at signing making him the highest paid NFL player outside of the quarterbacks.

Watt immediately proved his worth when, in September 2014 he became the first Texans defensive player to score a touchdown from a scrimmage.  His career that season was so spectacular that he was named as defensive end on the 2014 All-Pro First Team and defensive tackle on the All-Pro  second team as well as being named to the 2015 Pro-Bowl.  He was the Defensive MVP and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award once again (one of only a select few to win more than once).  He also received votes for the MVP award itself.

  1. JJ Watt Is Heavily Involved In Charity Work

J.J. Watt is all about giving back.
J.J. Watt is all about giving back.

Charitable work is very close to JJ Watt’s heart.  In 2010, even before he made it to the professional leagues, he started the Justin J Watt Foundation which was designed to provide opportunities for children from various different communities to engage in Athletics.  The foundation, whose motto is ‘Dream Big, Work Hard’ sells merchandise and has raised over $1million for charitable purposes.  Watt was inspired to start the foundation during his time as a junior at Wisconsin.  He volunteered at a middle school and heard a story about a kid who, left unsupervised between the end of school and his mom’s work, had robbed someone with a screwdriver.  This alerted him to the need for funded, structured after-school activities for children.  Initially concentrating on children in Wisconsin and later Texas the foundation has expanded into other states more recently.  Watt helps to raise funds by organizing a softball game in which Texans players participate, and many other activities including a Run/Walk and a Tailgate.  In 2015 the Softball Game raised over $640,000 and with the increase in Watt’s fame the takings look to continue to increase.  Watt has received several awards for his contributions to charity including the NFL’s Salute To Service Award, and the Texans Spirit of the Bull Community Award.

Watt has shown that he is particularly affected by events that include children.  After the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 he found out that some of the families involved in the event were in Houston, he arranged for them to visit the playing field, play football with them and donated signed merchandise.  He has also surprised children in hospital in Houston by attending their Halloween party dressed as Batman.  Such trips are not unusual for Watt who regularly visits sick children, although his visits are usually low key and he typically appears as himself!  He also comes across as a very low key, highly involved man.  In addition to supporting sick children he often goes to firefighter memorial services and will visit firefighters on duty during the holidays (his dad is a firefighter).

  1. JJ Watt Goes To Bed Really Early

J.J. Watt has an early bedtime!
J.J. Watt has an early bedtime!

JJ Watt takes training very seriously, so seriously, in fact, that he probably works out harder than any other sportsman in the US.  Even during the off-season, he is known to spend the majority of his time working out and before he bought his ‘minimalist’ home in Wisconsin (see above) was known to crash on friends’ floors during the off-season.  He works out twice a day for 90 minutes at a time with the same trainer he has had for years and with the same basic work out.  Watt likes to use his time at the gym to encourage youngsters in their fitness regime and is happy when they want to train alongside him.

Sleep is a big part of his fitness regime, it is so important to him that he has put his own bed in the Texans equipment room so that he can take naps during training.  Ever the generous player he is happy for other players or the equipment personnel to use it for naps if he is not in it.  Watt is known to love sleeping so much that he goes to bed early, at around 7/7.30pm (although given his crazy training regime it is a wonder that he can stay awake that long) and he sometimes gets up as early as 4am in order to fit all his training in.

  1. JJ Watt Can Do A Vertical Jump Of More Than 5 Feet

J.J. Watt loves box jumping too!
J.J. Watt loves box jumping too!

If you thought JJ Watt’s vertical jump of 37 inches in the 2011 NFL Combine was impressive (see above) you would be right.  If you thought that was the best he could do you would be wrong.

In 2015 JJ Watt was filmed performing a 61 inch vertical box jump from standing still.  This amazing feat was to celebrate his endorsement contract with Reebok.  Watt was signed with Reebok as part of their ‘Be More Human’ campaign which was designed to show ‘normal’ people that sports was for them every bit as much as big stars.  Reebok have no rights to put their logo on the field during NFL games but nevertheless thought that Watt would be an ideal fit for the company and would lend their product instant credibility.  Reebok say that Watts is the epitome of what their campaign is trying to achieve.  He failed at his first 5foot 1 box jump attempt but kept trying until he made it.

  1. JJ Watt Dreams About A Quiet Life

J.J. Watt dreams of the day when he can be a great dad.
J.J. Watt dreams of the day when he can be a great dad.

JJ Watt is hot stuff at the moment.  Something as simple as going bowling with some friends can cause him to be mobbed by fans wanting to get pictures of him (his last visit to a bowling alley required three sheriffs just to hold the fans back).  While he is enjoying playing the game he says that he was completely unprepared for the ‘craziness’ that came with it.  He finds it very difficult to find girlfriends at the present time because, he says, he is always worried about what their motive is – whether they are interested in JJ Watt the person or the player.  He says he wants a wife and children in due course but is not able to devote sufficient time to family life for the time being.  He wants, he claims, to be the ‘best husband and the best fatherhe can be and therefore he is waiting until he can devote enough time to his family.

His long term dream is to live a quiet life, coaching high school football, enjoying a movie at home and a bonfire at the weekend and throwing a ball for his dog – quite low key dreams for such a famous man.  Are these dreams that will survive his sports career?  Perhaps, but then again perhaps not.  He has been approached by Hollywood studios about the potential for an acting career in action movies.  He says he is tempted but that it is not something for now; perhaps his dreams of solitude will have to take a back burner to a second career.

So there is our list of the top 10 things you should know about JJ Watt.  A young man who seems to have excelled in everything he has done from Hockey and Shot Put in high school to his extraordinary professional football career.  When Watt decides to do something he gives it his all, dedicating himself full time to being the very best he can be.  In pursuit of this he gave up a fully funded scholarship for an uncertain career as a walk on at his home university (leading to financial stress for his parents for a time).  The gamble paid off, however as he went from being only a two star prospect out of high school to being the 11th overall pick (and the first for the Texans) in the 2011 draft.  He is so talented that the Texan coaches identified him as a prospect for the hall of fame almost immediately after he started his career with them.

Despite all his recent fame JJ Watts appears to be a fully grounded individual.  He still spends time close to his home town (albeit in a $800,000 luxury home) and continues to fundraise for his foundation.  While most (if not all) sports stars engage in charitable works of some sort, JJ Watt’s interest in his foundation appears very deep and very genuine.  He started it as a grass roots concern while he was in college and as a direct result of his fame and high profile, it has grown exponentially.

What other key developments lie in wait for JJ Watt’s impressive career?  Will he be voted MVP?  If any defensive player of his generation deserves that accolade then surely it is Watts!  We will watch his career with interest and hope that you do too.