J. J. Watt

J. J. Watt

refer to caption

Watt with the Houston Texans in 2012
No. 99Houston Texans
Position: Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1989-03-22) March 22, 1989
Place of birth: Waukesha, Wisconsin
Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Weight: 289 lb (131 kg)
Career information
High school: Pewaukee (WI)
College: Wisconsin
NFL Draft: 2011 / Round: 1 / Pick: 11
Career history
Roster status: Injured reserve
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 3, 2016
Tackles: 379
Quarterback sacks: 76
Passes defended: 45
Forced fumbles: 15
Interceptions: 1
Touchdowns: 5
Player stats at NFL.com

Justin James "J. J." Watt[1] (born March 22, 1989) is an American football defensive end for the Houston Texans of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Texans with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and played college football at Wisconsin.

Watt received the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award three times in his first five seasons.[2] Although primarily a defensive end, he occasionally shifts to defensive tackle in some situations. He has also taken snaps on offense, catching three touchdown passes during the 2014 season. In 2014, Watt became the first player in NFL history to record two 20+ sack seasons in a career.[3] He also holds the Texans' franchise records for both sacks and forced fumbles.

Early life and high school career

Watt was born on March 22, 1989, in Waukesha, Wisconsin,[4] to parents Connie, a building operations vice-president, and John Watt, a firefighter. The Watt family has Scottish ancestry. One of Watt's brothers, Derek Watt, is an NFL fullback for the San Diego Chargers. His younger brother, TJ Watt, is a student and football player at the University of Wisconsin. Watt played hockey from age four to age 13[5] and played for travel teams that traveled to Canada and Germany. He gave up hockey when weekly games started to conflict with his schedule and for financial reasons.[6] Watt also played football throughout his childhood and became passionate about football while he was in fifth grade.[5]

Watt attended Pewaukee High School, where he was a four-year letter-winner in football and also lettered in basketball, baseball, and track and field.[7] During his senior year, he was selected for first-team All-State. He earned the Woodland Conference Player of the Year Award his senior year, and first-team All-State, All-County, All-Area, and All-Conference selections as tight end and defensive end. He was also named the team's MVP.[8] During his senior year, Watt accumulated a total of 399 receiving yards, 26 catches, and 5 touchdowns.[9]

Watt followed in his father's footsteps and competed in the shot put during his senior season, earning first-team All-state selection.[10][11] He captured the state title in the shot put at the 2007 WIAA Division II Championship, setting a new school record with a throw of 59 ft, 11.5 in (18.28 meters).[12]


Regarded as a two-star recruit by both Rivals.com and Scout.com, Watt was ranked neither among the top tight end nor among the top defensive end prospects in his class. After official visits to Central Michigan, Colorado, and Minnesota, Watt chose to play for Central Michigan.[13]

Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight 40 Commit date
J. J. Watt
Defensive End
Pewaukee, WI Pewaukee HS 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) 220 lb (100 kg) 4.70 Jan 30, 2007 
Scout:2/5 stars   Rivals:2/5 stars   247Sports: N/A    ESPN grade: 63
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: NR   Rivals: NR  ESPN: 172 (DE)
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height and weight.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.


College career

Watt after the Badgers vs. Northwestern game in 2010

Central Michigan

Watt received a scholarship offer from Central Michigan University and matriculated there. Watt has stated that he was led to believe that as tight end, he would have the opportunity to score touchdowns. At Central Michigan, he played 14 games, compiling 77 receiving yards and 8 receptions.[14] Watt's coaches suggested that he move to offensive tackle, but Watt decided to forgo his starting spot and scholarship to walk on at the University of Wisconsin, where he played as a defensive end.[15]


At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Watt was redshirted for the 2008 season and was named Wisconsin’s Scout Team Player of the Year. In 2009, he played in 13 games as defensive end. In a game against Hawaii on December 5, 2009, Watt had a career-high of two sacks for nine yards, three tackles for loss, six tackles, and one quarterback hurry. Watt finished the season with 32 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles, four and a half sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and five passes defended. He also earned his first letter. In 2010, Watt played in 13 games and led the team in tackles for loss, quarterback hurries, blocked kicks, and forced fumbles. He finished the season with 42 solo tackles, 20 assisted tackles, 21 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception for 15 yards, nine passes defended, and three fumbles forced. He earned the Ronnie Lott Trophy in 2010, voted AP and Sports Illustrated second-team All- American, All-Big Ten first-team, academic All-Big Ten, and was voted the team’s MVP.[8]

College statistics

Year Team Tackles TFL (yards) Sacks (yards) FR
2009 Wisconsin 45 15.5 (53) 4.5 (19) 2
2010 Wisconsin 59 21.0 (91) 7.0 (56) 2
College totals 104 36.5 (144) 11.5 (75) 4

Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Ht WtArm lengthHand size 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BPWonderlic
6 ft 5 in 290 lb34 in11⅛ in 4.84 s 1.64 s 2.71 s 4.21 s 6.88 s 37 in 10 ft 0 in 34 reps31
All values from NFL Combine,[16] Wonderlic score from ProFootballWeekly[17]

Watt skipped his senior season, entering the 2011 NFL Draft. At the 2011 NFL Combine, Watt was a top performer in all combine categories except the 40-yard dash.[18] On April 28, 2011, he was selected in the first round by the Houston Texans and was the 11th pick overall.[19] The Texans signed Watt to a four-year, $11.24 million contract on July 31, 2011.[20]

2011 season

In 2011, Watt started all 16 games and finished the season with 48 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles, and five and a half sacks. In 2011, the Texans went to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. In the playoffs, Watt recorded 11 solo tackles, three assisted tackles, one interception returned for a touchdown, one pass defended, and four sacks in two games. Watt was named Texans Team Rookie of the Year, USA Today All-Joe Team, and Pro-Football Weekly/PWFA All-Rookie Team.[21]

2012 season

In 2012, Watt had one of the best seasons for a defensive player in NFL history. Watt finished the season with 69 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the week of September 16, 2011, and December 23, 2011.[22] On November 22, 2012, in a game against the Detroit Lions, Watt recorded three sacks, to give him a total of 14.5, breaking the Texans' record for sacks in a season, which was previously held by Mario Williams.[23] The Texans made the playoffs again in 2012, and Watt recorded six solo tackles, three assisted tackles, two passes defended, two sacks in two games.[24] Watt finished the season 2.5 sacks shy of Michael Strahan’s single-season record for sacks, set in 2001.[25] Watt was named to the 2013 NFL Pro-Bowl Team on December 26, 2012. Watt also was named Texans Team Most Valuable Player, USA Football Fundamentals Team, PFW First-Team All-Pro, Pro Football Weekly/PFWA Most Valuable Player, NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year, AP First-Team All-Pro, and the AP Defensive Player of the Year.[22] Watt received 49 out of 50 votes for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He is the first Texans player to receive an NFL Player of the Year award.[26] Watt was the 17th defensive lineman and only the eighth defensive end to receive the award since 1971.[27] Watt also made the highest debut on NFL Network’s Top 100 list for 2012, coming in at number five.[28]

2013 season

Watt during the 2014 Pro Bowl

In 2013, Watt recorded 65 solo tackles, 15 assisted tackles, seven passes defended, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.[22] The Texans, however, had a losing season and finished with a 2–14 record.[29] Watt was named to the 2014 NFL Pro-Bowl and was the Pro-Bowl Captain.[22]

2014 season

Watt during 2014 Pro Bowl coin toss

Prior to the start of the 2014 season, the Texans and Watt agreed to a six-year contract extension, worth $100 million.[30] Watt received $30.9 million at signing and he will receive $21 million at the start of the 2016 season if he is on the roster. This contract made him the NFL’s highest paid non-quarterback, based on average yearly salary.[31]

In a game against the Oakland Raiders, on September 14, 2014, Watt became the first defensive player in Texans history to score a touchdown from scrimmage. Watt scored the touchdown on a one-yard catch after coming into the game as a tight end.[32] Watt scored his second touchdown of the season on September 28, 2014, against the Buffalo Bills. Watt picked off a pass from Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel that was intended for Fred Jackson, and returned 80 yards for the touchdown. With this touchdown, Watt became tied at sixth for the longest interception return by a defensive lineman. Watt’s touchdown was also the fourth longest interception return in Houston Texans history.[33] During the game, Watt hit Manuel nine times, but was flagged twice for roughing the passer. Watt was fined $16,537 for only one of the incidents.[34] Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.[35]

In a game against the Indianapolis Colts, on October 9, 2014, Watt forced Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to fumble the ball. Watt recovered the ball and returned 45 yards for the touchdown.[36]

For his fourth touchdown of the season, Watt caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Texans quarterback, Ryan Mallett, for Mallett’s first career touchdown pass. Watt recorded 4 solo tackles, one assisted tackle, one sack, one forced fumble, and fumble recovery in the same game, which was on November 16, 2014, against the Cleveland Browns.[37]

Watt scored his fifth touchdown on November 30, 2014, catching a one-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Texans quarterback. With this reception, Watt became the first defensive lineman to have scored at least five touchdowns in a season since 1944.[38]

On December 21, Watt recorded his 54th sack as a Texan in a win against the Baltimore Ravens. With that sack, he surpassed Mario Williams as the franchise leader in sacks. On December 28, 2014, Watt had a sack for his first career safety against the Jacksonville Jaguars which gave him 3 sacks on the day[39] and 20.5 on the season, becoming the first player in NFL history to have 20 or more sacks in separate seasons.[40] Watt also finished the season with a career-high 5 fumble recoveries and 5 touchdowns.

For his outstanding season, Watt was unanimously named to the 2014 All-Pro First Team as a defensive end and named to the All-Pro second team as a defensive tackle. Watt was also named to the 2015 Pro Bowl where Cris Carter, team captain of Team Carter, selected Watt to be his captain on defense. During the game, Watt recorded a fumble recovery and an interception and after the game was named Defensive MVP. He also won the Defensive Player of the Year award, one of the few to win the award multiple times. He also became the first defensive player since 2008 to get votes for the MVP award, receiving 13.[41]

2015 season

Despite battling a groin injury and a fractured left hand, Watt started all 16 games in 2015 making 76 tackles, an NFL-leading 17.5 sacks, 8 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl for the fourth season in a row, and also received his third Defensive Player of the Year award, the only player aside from Lawrence Taylor to do so. With the Texans finishing the season 9–7, the team clinched an AFC South division title but were shut out 30-0 by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. On January 12, 2016, Watt underwent groin surgery for a sports hernia. The surgery was performed by Dr. William Meyers, a groin specialist in Philadelphia.[42] This forced Watt to withdraw from the upcoming Pro Bowl. He was later replaced by Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings.

2016 season

On July 21, 2016, Watt underwent back surgery for a herniated disc. He began training camp on the PUP list, but returned in Week 1 to start the season.[43] On September 28, 2016, he was placed on injured reserve.[44] The following day, he underwent back surgery again, and was officially ruled out for the rest of the season after playing three games and recording 1.5 sacks.[45]

NFL career statistics

Led the league
NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Bold Career high
Tackles & Sacks Fumbles Interceptions Other ReceivingRef.
Year Team GP Comb Solo Ast Sack FF FR Yds TD Int Yds Avg Lng TD PD SFT Yds Sfty KB Rec Tgts Yds Avg Lng TD FD
2011 HOU 16 56 48 8 5.5 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 9 18 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 [46]
2012 HOU 16 81 69 12 20.5 4 2 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 16 23 63 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2013 HOU 16 80 65 15 10.5 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 15 28 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2014 HOU 16 78 59 19 20.5 4 5 59 1 1 80 80 80 1 10 15 34 1 1 3 3 4 1.3 2 3 0
2015 HOU 16 76 57 19 17.5 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 17 36 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
2016 HOU 3 8 1 7 1.5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career 83 379 299 80 76.0 15 12 68 1 1 80 80 80 1 45 79 180 1 4 3 4 4 1.3 2 3 3

Awards and highlights


Houston Texans franchise records


Personal life

Watt (right) with Davin Joseph (second from left) and two U.S. soldiers at Regional Command South in March 2013

While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Watt delivered pizzas for a Pewaukee Pizza Hut.[48]

On July 22, 2015, Watt was named the Vice-President of Power Relations for Reliant. Reliant is a retail electric provider in Texas, also a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc.[49]

He is the older brother of San Diego Chargers fullback Derek Watt and Wisconsin Badgers linebacker T. J. Watt.

Charitable work

Watt is the president and founder of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment. This foundation’s motto, “Dream Big, Work Hard” is sold on wrist bands and T-shirts. Since this foundation was launched in 2010, Watt has raised over $1 million.[50] Most of the schools that benefit from the fundraising are in Texas and Wisconsin but are not limited to these states. Recently, donations have expanded to Alabama, Illinois, and California. Watt’s mother, Connie, is the vice president of the organization. Watt and the J.J. Watt Foundation host a Charity Classic, Run/Walk, Golf Outing, and Tailgate annually.[51] The Charity Classic is a softball game held at Constellation Field, in Sugar Land, Texas, in which Texans players participate in a game, and Home Run Derby to raise money for the foundation.[52] The inaugural Charity Classic game was in 2013, and the 2014 Charity Classic raised over $436,433 towards his foundation.[53] On August 26, 2014, Watt received the Texans Spirit of the Bull Community Award.[54] On November 14, 2014, Watt was nominated for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award that honors either a coach, player, or owner for their efforts in supporting the country’s service men and women.[55] Due to the extremely good turnout in 2014, the annual Charity Classic has been moved to Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. In 2015, over $640,000 dollars were raised. This is almost double the amount of money raised in the previous year.

J.J. Watt is also known for his interactions with children. On July 2, 2011, The Berry Family was traveling home from a vacation in Colorado Springs. The parents, Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in a head-on collision while also leaving their two sons, Peter and Aaron handicapped. Their daughter, Willa, suffered minor injuries. In 2012, following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Watt found out some of the families that were affected were in the Houston area. He invited them out on the field to hang out and throw the football. He then proceeded to give them signed merchandise that he had worn in previous games.[56] In October 2015, he dressed up as Batman to surprise kids at the Texas Children's Hospital for a Halloween party.[57]


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