Football: J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston
Copywriter, T. Scharfenberg | Photographer, J. Huebner
Date Updated on: 4-24-12
J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston
J.J. Watt believes he is set apart from other athletes because of his unordinary journey to professional football. He told us “I didn’t necessarily take the conventional path to the NFL, but I got there. And I’m going to continue to work my tail off to have success and try to bring a lot of success to the city of Houston.”
J.J. started his story by taking us back to fifth grade when he was playing both football and baseball, and Eastbay was there the whole the way. “You’d get the magazine in the mail and immediately bring it to the lunchroom at school. We’d all compare which shoes we liked, which shoes we wanted our parents to buy us. Eastbay’s always been a big part of my life and it was always my source for getting new shoes and new athletic gear.”
After a few more years, J.J. found himself playing high school football. He actually started as a quarterback, not moving to a tight end/defensive end until his junior year. After a successful high school career, he received a scholarship offer from Central Michigan University. But when their football coach moved to another university, J.J. chose not to stay in Central Michigan. Instead, he moved to Minnesota. And then Minnesota’s football coach was let go. As if this wasn’t a long enough string of unplanned events, J.J. went back to Central Michigan only to find that their program wasn’t utilizing tight ends much. He wasn’t getting the opportunities he craved there, so in a last attempt, J.J. transferred to the University of Wisconsin.
It was a big risk, especially considering his luck with settling into a program up to this point. J.J. even told his parents that if he didn’t receive a scholarship from Wisconsin within the first year, he would get a job and pay them back for his schooling. But scholarships don’t come easy, so J.J. was prepared to work for one. “All I did every single day was treat the scout team as my Super Bowl. I couldn’t even suit up for every game, so every practice was my big deal. I just tried to do every single thing that I could to catch the coaches’ eyes and show them that I was the player they wanted to have on their team and the player that they wanted to give a scholarship to.”
After that first year at Wisconsin he had earned his scholarship and a place on the team. He went on to be a starter for two more seasons. While his story sounds full of uncertainty and upheaval, J.J. told us that he feels nothing but lucky. Most players don’t ever get a chance at playing college football. He got two.
Following his junior season at Wisconsin, J.J. declared for the 2011 professional football draft. He was drafted 11th overall by Houston and since then has been playing alongside his Eastbay cover-mate, Connor Barwin.
J.J. credits Connor with pulling him out of his comfort zone, motivating him on and off the field. They spent part of our interview competing over pushups, fashion and who loved their mom more. And while these two seem to be having nothing but fun together in Houston, they’re getting business done too. With solid contributions from both players, Houston won their first playoff game in history last season.
“There are going to be a lot of doubters along the way. There are going to be a lot of people telling you that you can’t do it, that it’s not possible to accomplish your dreams. Is it going to be hard? Yeah. But if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort and the commitment, you can do anything you want. And remember to have fun as a kid. Play as many sports as you can, because you never get a chance to do that again in your life.”
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