If you’re an NFL quarterback, few men are more intimidating than JJ Watt. The Houston Texans defensive end has made a living wreaking havoc in the backfield; during college, however, he found himself working somewhere other than on the gridiron. At one point, he suited up for his local Pizza Hut.
Yes, you read that correctly. Before making it to the NFL and taking home three Defensive Player of the Year titles, JJ Watt worked as a pizza delivery guy.
JJ Watt’s fairy tale football career
These days, it’s impossible to imagine JJ Watt as anything other than an NFL star. His road to the pros, however, was far from straight forward.
While Watt was an all-around athlete in high school, he wasn’t the physical specimen he is today. He didn’t receive a great deal of attention from major college programs and ended up heading to Central Michigan as a tight end. There, the coaching staff suggested he move to the offensive line; Watt wasn’t interested and promptly transferred to the University of Wisconsin.
Watt walked onto the Badgers football team and found a home on the defensive side of the ball. He spent two seasons in Madison, doing enough to become the 11th overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft. Houston Texans fans, however, weren’t happy with the selection and booed the young defensive end.
Those fans, however, lit a fire under Watt and, after a solid rookie campaign, he exploded onto the NFL scene with a 20.5 sack 2012 campaign. Although he’s been hamstrung by injuries in recent years, the defensive end has still accumulated 96 sacks and 479 total tackles in the pros; as long as he’s healthy, no one doubts JJ Watt’s talent.
Plying his trade as a pizza delivery guy
For all of his football success, JJ Watt wasn’t always working on the gridiron. For a time in college, he even plied his trades in a much more humble role: pizza delivery guy.
After leaving Central Michigan, Watt returned home until it was time to head to Wisconsin the following fall. While he spent most of his time taking classes at a local community college and working out, he also picked up a job at Pizza Hut doing deliveries.
While there were signs of the NFL star we all know—”At Pizza Hut, Watt was the fastest delivery driver and most dependable. He took pride in that,” Tania Ganguli wrote in the Houston Chronicle—there were also some missteps along the way. On one occasion, Watt’s car got stuck in the snow; he was eventually rescued by his mother, eating his cargo of pizza and wings while waiting.
There was also a famous encounter with a boy who asked Watt why he was delivering pizzas. While some of the details have been exaggerated over time, it did provide a reality check.
“There’s the report that I cried. I never cried,” Watt explained to Ganguli. “What was going through my mind was, this kid once saw me as the greatest, someone he looked up to. When I saw the look on his face, that for that split second he didn’t see me as that anymore, that hurt. … It didn’t change my life or make me want to go back and be a football player. But it re-instilled the drive in me to become great again, to become that kid’s role model again.”
JJ Watt has come a long way from delivering pizzas
If that fateful pizza delivery re-instilled JJ Watt’s drive to become a great football player, he’s definitely followed through. Both in terms of on-field performance and financial compensation, the defensive end has made it big.
As mentioned above, Watt can wreak havoc in any offensive backfield, provided he’s healthy enough to be on the field; you don’t win three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards by accident. That talent has helped him ink a six-year, $100 million contract in 2014.
Based on Spotrac’s financial data, Watt has earned just over $85 million to date in the NFL; that, combined with his endorsements and television work, has helped the defensive end build a fortune that CelebrityNetWorth pegs at approximately $10 million. It’s safe to assume that’s a nice raise from his Pizza Hut paycheck.
All stats courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference