Dream Big Work Hard. Those four simple words have helped to transform Pewaukee native JJ Watt from small-town Wisconsin boy to being selected #11 Overall Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. Watt has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times in his career and was selected as the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year. The journey from backyard football to the big stage of the NFL was not always smooth or easy and filled with adversity, but with unbelievable support from his friends and family, JJ turned his childhood dreams into reality.
Since joining the Texans, Watt has been selected to the Pro-Bowl Team five times and won the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award 3 times in his first five seasons. He is the first player in NFL history to record two 20+ sack seasons in a career. He also occasionally shifts to defensive tackle and has also taken snaps as a tight end. He has made the NFL Top 100 list each of the last 6 years, including being selected #1 overall on the list before the 2015 season.
In his first season with the Texans, Watt started in every game and recorded 48 solo tackles. 2011 also marked the franchise’s first playoff appearance. In 2012, he became the first Texans player to win the NFL Player of the Year Award. He recorded a record 69 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles, 20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. Watt made the pro bowl 4 consecutive years from 2012 to 2015, averaging 17.3 sacks and 79 tackles per year over that span. Following two injury-plagued years in 2016 and 2017, Watt is having a fantastic year in 2018. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the month of September after recording five sacks, 20 tackles, and four forced fumbles.
Watt is the Texans franchise leader in sacks and forced fumbles. Watt played his first collegiate season at Central Michigan before transferring to Wisconsin. During this career with the Badgers, he earned the Ronnie Lott Trophy in 2010, AP and Sports Illustrated second-team All-American, Big Ten first-team, academic All-Big Ten and was voted the team’s MVP. Watt is the president and founder of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, which provides after school opportunities for children in various communities encouraging them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment.
In the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, Watt organized a crowdfunding campaign to help Houston recover. His campaign has raised more than $41.6 million, making it the largest crowdsourced fundraiser in world history.