Things have turned out quite well for Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. When healthy, Watt ranks right up there with the best defensive players in the NFL. If Watt’s high school football coach had listened to Watt’s father years ago, Watt might be playing on the other side of the ball.
J.J. Watt selected by the Houston Texans
J.J. Watt was selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft. The Houston Texans drafted him with the 11th overall pick after playing college football at the University of Wisconsin. The 6-foot-5 Watt was a force in his final season with the Badgers, leading the team in tackles for loss, quarterback hurries, and forced fumbles.
Watt began his college career at Central Michigan. He began as a tight end and then decided to leave and make an attempt to walk on at Wisconsin. He made the team and red-shirted his first year with the team and then played the 2009 season as a defensive end. Watt finished the season with 44 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
In his second season at Wisconsin, his junior year, Watt finished with 62 tackles and seven sacks. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and was also All-Big Ten first-team. Watt was also voted AP second-team All-American. He entered the NFL draft the following year when the Houston Texans took him in the first round.
Watt a dominant force in the NFL
As a rookie in 2011, J.J. Watt played and started all 16 games for the Houston Texans. He finished the season with 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks. It was during his second season in the NFL when Watt became a household name.
In 2012, Watt was simply dominant. He was a terror on defense, racking up a league-high 20.5 sacks and a career-high 81 tackles. He also recovered a pair of fumbles. Watt made his first Pro Bowl, beginning a streak of four straight. He was also named First-Team All-Pro in those four years.
Watt was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, 2014, and 2015. In 2014, he matched his career-high of 20.5 sacks. According to Yahoo! Sports, he became the first player to record 20-plus sack seasons. Since 2016, however, Watt has been plagued by injuries. He’s only played more than eight games in a season once. In that year (2018), he returned to the Pro Bowl after leading the league in forced fumbles with seven.
Watt began his football life as a quarterback
When J.J. Watt was heading into his junior year to play for the Pewaukee High School football team, Watt’s father, John, had a message for coach Clay Iverson. Iverson was a young coach taking on a new job, but still didn’t pay much attention to the elder Watt’s comment.
“The only thing John told me when I took the job was, ‘Just so you know, I’ll never bother you again, but J.J.’s the best quarterback you have in the program.’” Iverson said, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I was 26. I didn’t even know how to respond to that. The next day, I moved him to tight end and defensive end.”
J.J. Watt was the backup quarterback as a sophomore and was hoping to be the starter as a junior. “You know, John wasn’t wrong,” Iverson said. “He could have been a real loud-mouthed parent, and he wasn’t. (J.J.) could have been a Division 3 quarterback, but I think things worked out pretty well. We moved him right away because of his body type and frame. He could still throw it 60 or 70 yards. He had a magnificent junior year with very little coaching. Sometimes you’re watching and wondering, ‘Am I watching what I think I’m watching?’ He’s a junior who’s never played the position before.”