Dream Big Work Hard. These four words have helped transform Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt from a small town Wisconsin boy into not only the 11th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but also the 96th-best player in the NFL after just his rookie season, according to GridironGrit.com’s new list of the Top 100 Players of 2012.
Born in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, Watt grew up a multi-sport athlete, not only excelling on the gridiron, but also on the ice, basketball court and baseball diamond. He became a state champion as a senior in the shot put circle at Pewaukee High School as well.
In 2007, he started one season at tight end for the MAC Champion Central Michigan Chippewas, where he caught just seven passes for 77 yards. Frustrated by the lack of direction and production at Central Michigan, Watt left the school and began delivering pizzas. Following a somber encounter with a fan, he regained his focus, telling himself, “I don’t want to be delivering pizzas. I want to be playing football.”
It wasn’t long until he transferred to Wisconsin to play defensive end for his home-state Badgers.
“The journey from backyard football to the big stage of the NFL was not always smooth, never easy and filled with adversity, but with unbelievable support from his friends and family, JJ turned his childhood dreams into reality.”
Redshirted in 2008, Watt started all 13 games in 2009, racking up 44 tackles and 4.0 sacks.
Prior to entering the draft after his junior season, Watt was named Team MVP as he helped lead the Badgers to their first Ben Ten Championship since 1999 with 59 tackles, 7.0 sacks, a pair of fumble recoveries and one interception in the 2010 regular season.
During his two-year tenure as a starter, he was also awarded with the 2010 Lott Trophy and recognized as an All-American, Consensus First Team All-Big Ten and two-time Academic All-Big Ten.
Last season, Watt, 23, started every game for the Texans, as he registered 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks, along with four passes defensed.
“Last year I wanted to be a contributor and just help us win games and now I want to be dominant and establish myself as a top-tier defensive end,” Watt said in late May (comments distributed by the team).
So what are his overall goals? “Super Bowl,” Watt said. “That’s it.”
The 6-5, 288-pound star defensive end also accumulated 14 tackles, 3.5 sacks and one all-important interception returned for a touchdown from 29 yards out against the Cincinnati Bengals during the playoffs.
“I did some good things at the end of the year but I want to put a whole year together,” Watt said. “I started off a little rusty last year, so this year I want to come out from the gate and show everybody what I’m about and show everybody what this defense is about.”
Watch out, folks. This beast and Texans team could have what it takes to reach the ultimate goal. At the moment, Watt has done enough to land at the No. 96 spot on our list of the Top 100 NFL Players of 2012.
Verse of This Piece: “Doing right brings freedom to honest people, but those who are not trustworthy will be caught in their own desires.” —Proverbs 11:6