… When Houston Texans fans booed J.J. Watt at the 2011 recruiting party, they couldn’t have known what was coming.
Little did they know that Watt would become the face of the franchise, the best player in his 19-year history and a legendary figure in Houston.
On Friday, it was announced that Watt had requested and received his resignation from the Texans, meaning that he and the McNair family have parted ways. It was the latest step in a tumultuous off-season for the Texans, who are currently processing a franchise application from quarterback Deshaun Watson.
In Watt’s announcement, a video for fans, he said that while he is excited about the new opportunities, “it’s always hard to move on.”
“I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who had never been to Texas,” Watt said. “And now, I can’t imagine my life without Texas. The way you treated me, except on game night …., you booed me on game night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I really feel like you guys are my family.”
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The way the Texans handled Watt’s departure showed the McNair family’s respect for Watt. Houston could have tried to trade Watt for loan money, but instead released him more than a month before free agency began. He can now sign with another team immediately. In a statement, co-founder and senior team president Janice McNair said, “Simply put, there has been no one in the last decade who has had a greater impact on the Texas organization than J.J. McNair.
The most incredible period for Watt occurred between 2012 and 2015, when he won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards and became the only player to record multiple seasons of 20 or more sacks since 1982.
According to statistics from ESPN, his 74.5 sacks were the second-most in his first five seasons since individual sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
Watt did not miss a game in his first five seasons, but he underwent two back surgeries in 2016, broke his leg in 2017 and tore a pectoral muscle in 2019. These were all end-of-season injuries, except for a torn pectoral muscle from which he returned after eight playoff games. It was an unprecedented comeback that was possible because he was ready.
In 2015, when Watt did not miss a game despite a broken hand, he also played with five torn muscles that required offseason surgery.
It is this toughness that earned him respect in the locker room and throughout the city. Teammates and fans loved Watt, and he was a leader not only in the locker room, but in Houston. His passion on the field was infectious and gave fans a reason to cheer for a team that was always on the verge of success in January, but never did.
Misunderstanding. Lovie, not specified.J.J. Watt, was the best factor in making the difference on and off the field during his time in Houston. Carmen Mandato/Getty Images …
In addition to what he did on the field, what he did in the community had a huge impact on Houston.
In August 2017, after observing flooding in the city following Hurricane Harvey, Watt launched a fundraising campaign to help those affected by the storm.
What began as a fundraising goal of $200,000 – of which he donated $100,000 himself – quickly became a life-changing $41.6 million. Watt not only raised the money, but also took the distribution process seriously. He spoke with the people who processed the donations in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to see what good they did and what mistakes they made. He said his mission was to make sure the money raised had as much impact as possible.
And while people around the world remember what he did after Hurricane Harvey, there are hundreds of other stories – and perhaps hundreds more to tell – about what Watt did in this community during his ten years in Houston.
When Watt was asked last May if he wanted to end his career in Houston, he replied, “That would be my goal, obviously.”
“This city has been incredible to me from the day I got here,” he said. “I’m very grateful and lucky to have the opportunity to play in front of such amazing fans who have supported not only me, but my foundation and everything I try to do. It’s a great place to be.
“I can’t say what the future holds, but I hope so.”
Ultimately, the 2020 season showed how far away the Texans were from Watt’s ultimate goal of winning the first Super Bowl in club history, and the McNair family honored his request to try to win elsewhere.
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