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Justin James “J. J.” Watt (born March 22, 1989) is an American football defensive end for the Houston Texans of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Wisconsin, and was drafted by the Texans in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Watt received the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award three times in his first five seasons.[1] Although primarily a defensive end, he occasionally shifts to defensive tackle in some situations. He has also taken snaps on offense, catching three touchdown passes during the 2014 season. In 2014, Watt became the first player in NFL history to record two 20+ sack seasons in a career.[2] He holds the Texans’ franchise records for both sacks and forced fumbles. In 2017, Sports Illustrated named Watt its Sportsperson of the Year.

Early life

Watt was born on March 22, 1989, in Waukesha, Wisconsin,[3] to parents Connie, a building operations vice-president, and John, a firefighter. Both of J.J.’s younger brothers have played in the NFL as well – Derek Watt is a fullback for the Los Angeles Chargers, and T. J. Watt plays linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Watt played hockey from age four to age 13[4] and played for travel teams that traveled to Canada and Germany. He gave up hockey when weekly games started to conflict with his schedule and for financial reasons.[5] Watt also played football throughout his childhood and became passionate about the sport while he was in fifth grade.[4]

Watt attended Pewaukee High School, where he was a four-year letter-winner in football and also lettered in basketball, baseball, and track and field.[6] He earned the Woodland Conference Player of the Year Award his senior year, and first-team All-State, All-County, All-Area, and All-Conference selections as tight end and defensive end. He was also named the team’s MVP.[7] During his senior year, Watt accumulated a total of 399 receiving yards, 26 catches, and 5 touchdowns.[8]

Watt followed in his father’s footsteps and competed in the shot put during his senior season, earning first-team All-state selection.[9][10] He captured the state title in the shot put at the 2007 WIAA Division II Championship, setting a new school record with a throw of 59 ft, 11.5 in (18.28 meters).[11]


Regarded as a two-star recruit by both and, Watt was ranked neither among the top tight end nor among the top defensive end prospects in his class. After official visits to Central Michigan, Colorado, and Minnesota, Watt chose to play for Central Michigan under coach Butch Jones.[12]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletesNameHometownHigh school / collegeHeightWeight40Commit dateJ. J. Watt
Defensive EndPewaukee, WIPewaukee HS6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)220 lb (100 kg)4.70Jan 30, 2007 Recruiting star ratings: Scout:2/5 stars   Rivals:2/5 stars   247SportsN/A    ESPN grade: 63Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: NR   Rivals: NR  ESPN: 172 (DE)

  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height and weight.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.


  • “Central Michigan Football Commitments”. Retrieved ;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=unknown&rft.btitle=Central+Michigan+Football+Commitments&” class=”Z3988″>
  • “2007 Central Michigan Football Commits”. Retrieved ;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=unknown&rft.btitle=2007+Central+Michigan+Football+Commits&” class=”Z3988″>
  • “ESPN”. Retrieved ;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=unknown&rft.btitle=ESPN&” class=”Z3988″>
  • “ Team Recruiting Rankings”. Retrieved ;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=unknown&” class=”Z3988″>
  • “2007 Team Ranking”. Retrieved ;rft_val_fmt=info%3Aofi%2Ffmt%3Akev%3Amtx%3Abook&rft.genre=unknown&rft.btitle=2007+Team+Ranking&” class=”Z3988″>

College career

Watt after the Badgers vs. Northwestern game in 2010

Central Michigan

Watt received a scholarship offer from Central Michigan University and matriculated there. He has stated that he was led to believe by Butch Jones that, as a tight end, he would have the opportunity to score touchdowns. At Central Michigan, he played 14 games, compiling 77 receiving yards and 8 receptions.[13][14] Watt’s coaches, led by Butch Jones, suggested that he move to offensive tackle, but Watt decided to forgo his starting spot and scholarship to walk on at the University of Wisconsin, where he played as a defensive end.[15]


At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Watt was redshirted for the 2008 season and was named Wisconsin’s Scout Team Player of the Year. In 2009, he played in 13 games as defensive end. In a game against Hawaii on December 5, 2009, Watt had a career-high of two sacks for nine yards, three tackles for loss, six tackles, and one quarterback hurry. Watt finished the season with 32 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles, four and a half sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss, and five passes defended.[16] He also earned his first letter. On November 20, 2010, against Michigan, he recorded his first collegiate interception.[17] Overall, in the 2010 season, Watt played in 13 games and led the team in tackles for loss, quarterback hurries, blocked kicks, and forced fumbles. He finished the season with 42 solo tackles, 20 assisted tackles, 21 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception for 15 yards, nine passes defended, and three fumbles forced.[18] He earned the Ronnie Lott Trophy in 2010, voted AP and Sports Illustrated second-team All- American, All-Big Ten first-team, academic All-Big Ten, and was voted the team’s MVP.[7]

College statistics

Central Michigan ChippewasYearClassPositionGPReceivingRushingScrimmageRecYardsAvgTDAttYardsAvgTDPlaysYardsAvgTD2007FreshmanTE148779.60000.008779.60Wisconsin BadgersYearClassPositionGPTacklesInterceptionsFumblesSoloAstTotalLossSackIntYardsAvgTDPDFRYardsTDFF2009Redshirt SophomoreDE1332124415.54.5000.00500002010Redshirt JuniorDE1342206221.07.011515.0000000

Professional career

Pre-draft measurablesHeightWeightArm lengthHand size40-yard dash10-yd split20-yd split20-ss3-coneVert jumpBroadBPWonderlic6 ft 5 3⁄8 in
(1.97 m)290 lb
(132 kg)34 in
(0.86 m)11 1⁄8 in
(0.28 m);in
(0.94 m)10 ft 0 in
(3.05 m);19]All values are from NFL Scouting Combine[20][21]

Watt skipped his senior season, entering the 2011 NFL Draft. At the 2011 NFL Combine, he was a top performer in all combine categories except the 40-yard dash.[20] On April 28, 2011, he was the first defensive end selected in the first round. He was picked by the Houston Texans with the 11th overall pick.[22] The Texans signed Watt to a four-year, $11.24 million contract on July 31, 2011.[23][24]

2011 season: Rookie year

In the 2011 season, Watt started all 16 games. In the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, he had five tackles and a fumble recovery in his NFL debut.[25] On November 27, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watt had his first multi-sack game with 2.0 in the 20-13 victory.[26] Watt finished his rookie year with 48 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles, and 5.5 sacks. The Texans qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.[27][28]

In the playoffs, Watt recorded 11 solo tackles, three assisted tackles, an interception returned for a touchdown, 1 pass defended, and 3.5 sacks in 2 games against the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.[29][30] Watt was named Texans Team Rookie of the Year, USA Today All-Joe Team, and Pro-Football Weekly/PWFA All-Rookie Team.[31]

2012 season

Watt in 2012

In 2012, Watt had one of the best seasons for a defensive player in NFL history. He finished the season with 69 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month in both September and December.[31] On November 22, 2012, in a game against the Detroit Lions, Watt recorded three sacks, to give him a total of 14.5, breaking the Texans’ record for sacks in a season, which was previously held by Mario Williams.[32][33] On December 16, against the Indianapolis Colts, Watt recorded three sacks and ten total tackles in a 29-17 victory.[34] The Texans made the playoffs again in 2012, and Watt recorded six solo tackles, three assisted tackles, two passes defended and two sacks in two games.[35][36][37][38] Watt finished the season 2.5 sacks shy of Michael Strahan‘s single-season record for sacks, set in 2001.[39] Watt was named to the 2013 NFL Pro-Bowl Team on December 26, 2012. Watt also was named Texans Team Most Valuable Player, USA Football Fundamentals Team, PFW First-Team All-Pro, Pro Football Weekly/PFWA Most Valuable Player, NFL 101 AFC Defensive Player of the Year, AP First-Team All-Pro, and the AP Defensive Player of the Year.[31] Watt received 49 out of 50 votes for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He is the first Texans player to receive an NFL Player of the Year award.[40] Watt was the 17th defensive lineman and only the eighth defensive end to receive the award since 1971.[41] Watt also made the highest debut on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list for 2012, coming in at number five.[42]

2013 season

Watt during the 2014 Pro Bowl

Watt had a strong season, but the Texans struggled as a whole, in the 2013 season.[43] In Week 2, against the Tennessee Titans, he had his first two sacks of the season in a 30-24 win.[44] From Weeks 7-12, he recorded at least one sack in each game.[45][46][47][48][49] Overall, in the 2013 season, Watt recorded 65 solo tackles, 15 assisted tackles, seven passes defended, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.[31][50] The Texans, however, had a losing season and finished with a 2-14 record.[51] Watt was named to the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl and was a Pro Bowl Captain.[31]

2014 season

Watt during 2014 Pro Bowl coin toss

Prior to the start of the 2014 season, the Texans and Watt agreed to a six-year contract extension, worth $100 million.[52] He received $30.9 million at signing and he was to receive $21 million at the start of the 2016 season if he was on the roster. This contract made him the NFL’s highest paid non-quarterback, based on average yearly salary.[53]

In a game against the Oakland Raiders, on September 14, Watt became the first defensive player in Texans history to score a touchdown from scrimmage. He scored the touchdown on a 1-yard catch after coming into the game as a tight end.[54][55] He scored his second touchdown of the season on September 28, against the Buffalo Bills. Watt picked off a pass from Buffalo’s EJ Manuel that was intended for Fred Jackson, and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown.[56] With this touchdown, Watt became tied at sixth for the longest interception return by a defensive lineman. Watt’s touchdown was also the fourth longest interception return in Houston Texans history.[57] During the game, Watt hit Manuel nine times, but was flagged twice for roughing the passer. Watt was fined $16,537 for one of the incidents.[58] Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.[59]

In a game against the Indianapolis Colts, on October 9, 2014, Watt forced Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to fumble the ball. Watt recovered the ball and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.[60][61]

For his fourth touchdown of the season, Watt caught a two-yard pass from Texans quarterback, Ryan Mallett, for Mallett’s first NFL touchdown pass. Watt recorded four solo tackles, an assisted tackle, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in the same game, which was on November 16, against the Cleveland Browns.[62][63]

Watt scored his fifth touchdown on November 30, 2014, catching a one-yard pass from Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.[64] With this reception, Watt became the first defensive lineman to have scored at least five touchdowns in a season since 1944.[65]

On December 21, Watt recorded his 54th sack as a Texan in a 25-13 win against the Baltimore Ravens.[66] With that sack, he surpassed Mario Williams as the franchise leader in sacks. On December 28, he had a sack for his first career safety against the Jacksonville Jaguars which gave him three sacks on the day[67][68] and 20.5 on the season, becoming the first player in NFL history to have 20 or more sacks in separate seasons.[69] Watt also finished the season with a career-high 5 fumble recoveries and 5 touchdowns.[70]

For his outstanding season, Watt was unanimously named to the 2014 All-Pro First Team as a defensive end and named to the All-Pro second team as a defensive tackle. Watt was also named to the 2015 Pro Bowl, where Cris Carter, team captain of Team Carter, selected Watt to be his captain on defense. During the game, Watt recorded a fumble recovery and an interception and after the game was named Defensive MVP. He also won the Defensive Player of the Year award, one of the few to win the award multiple times, and became the first defensive player since 2008 to get votes for the MVP award, receiving 13.[71] After the season, Watt was named to the top spot in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015.[72]

2015 season

Despite battling a groin injury and a fractured left hand, Watt started all 16 games in 2015 making 76 tackles, an NFL-leading 17.5 sacks, 8 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. In the regular season finale, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Watt had a season-high three sacks to go along with eight total tackles.[73] He was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl, which was his fourth consecutive appearance, and also received his third Defensive Player of the Year award, the only player aside from Lawrence Taylor to do so. With the Texans finishing the season 9-7, the team clinched an AFC South division title but were shut out 30-0 by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round.[74][75][76] On January 12, 2016, Watt underwent groin surgery for a sports hernia.[77] This forced Watt to withdraw from the 2016 Pro Bowl. This was his fourth straight Pro Bowl honors to go along with his fourth straight first-team All-Pro. He was ranked as the top defensive lineman and the third best player on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.[78]

2016 season

On July 21, 2016, Watt underwent back surgery for a herniated disc. He began training camp on the PUP list, but returned in Week 1 to start the season in a victory over the Chicago Bears.[79][80] In Week 2, he had 1.5 sacks and five total tackles against the Kansas City Chiefs.[81] On September 22, in the game against the New England Patriots, Watt recorded two assisted tackles in his final action of the season.[82] On September 28, 2016, he was placed on injured reserve.[83] The following day, he underwent back surgery again, and was officially ruled out for the rest of the season after playing three games and recording 1.5 sacks.[84] Even though Watt played in only three games, he was ranked 35th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2017.[85]

2017 season

Watt returned from his injury to play in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.[86] During Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, Watt left the game after an apparent leg injury. It was later revealed that he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg.[87] He underwent surgery the next day and was ruled out the remainder of the season.[88] In only 5 games, Watt finished with 11 tackles and 2 passes defended.[89] Despite the limited action, he was still ranked 84th by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018.[90]

During the 2017 season, Watt raised upwards of $40 million for relief and recovery efforts for the Houston area after Hurricane Harvey. The entire sum was raised through an online drive after he donated $100,000 of his own money as the starting base. Watt commented that this season “was always about more than football.”[91] Watt was co-named Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year for 2017 for his humanitarian efforts. Watt was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.[92]

2018 season

Watt returned from his injury in time for the season opener against the New England Patriots. After being held without a sack in the first two weeks, he collected three sacks and eight combined tackles in the Week 3 27-22 defeat against the New York Giants, his first sacks since Week 2 of 2016.[93] He followed that up with two sacks the following week in the OT win against the Indianapolis Colts. 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.[94] In Week 12, Watt recorded nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in a 34-17 win over the Tennessee Titans, earning him AFC Defensive Player of the Week.[95] After only recording 1.5 sacks in his previous two injury plagued seasons, Watt finished the season with 16 sacks, second in the league behind Aaron Donald, and was named a First Team All Pro for the fifth time in his career.[96] Watt became the second player to record four seasons with at least 15 sacks since the sack became an official statistic in 1982 (Reggie White had five such seasons).[97]

2019 season

In week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, Watt recorded zero tackles and zero quarterback hits in the 30-28 loss. This was the first time in 105 career games that Watt was held to these numbers.[98][99] In week 3 against the Los Angeles Chargers, Watt sacked Philip Rivers twice in the 27-20 win.[100] In the Week 8 game against the Oakland Raiders, Watt suffered a season-ending torn pectoral.[101] He was placed on injured reserve on October 30.[102] He was designated for return from injured reserve on December 24, and began practicing with the team again.[103] He was activated on December 31, 2019 prior to the team’s wildcard playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. During the game, Watt sacked Josh Allen once during the 22-19 overtime win. [104]

NFL statistics

LegendLed the leagueNFL Defensive Player of the YearBoldCareer high

Regular season



YearTeamGamesTacklesFumblesInterceptionsOtherReceivingGPGSCombSoloAstSackTFLFFFRYdsTDIntYdsAvgLngTDPDSftyKBRecTgtsYdsAvgLongTD2011HOU22141133.54000012929.029T11000000002012HOU229631.530000000002000000002015HOU111010.000000000000000000002016HOUDid not play due to injury2018HOU112200.010000000002000000002019HOU222111.01000000000100000000Career88282086.09000012929.029T16000000.000

Awards and highlights


Houston Texans franchise records

  • Most career sacks (96.0)
  • Most career forced (22) and recovered fumbles (12)


Personal life

Watt played ice hockey from age four until he was 13 years old, traveling as far as Canada and Germany for tournaments. He said that he played “primarily as a center and was a goal scorer.”[106] Because of the financial cost of the sport and making a choice between hockey and football, Watt stopped playing hockey to focus on football. Watt has joked that he “may or may not” use skating as part of his offseason training.[107]

Watt (right) with Davin Joseph (second from left) and two U.S. soldiers at Regional Command South in March 2013

While an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Watt delivered pizzas for a Pewaukee Pizza Hut.[108]

On July 22, 2015, Watt was named the Vice-President of Power Relations for Reliant. Reliant is a retail electric provider in Texas, also a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc.[109]

On February 15, 2018, Baylor College of Medicine announced that Watt would receive an honorary degree from their medical school.[110] On May 29, 2018 He received the degree of Doctor of Humanities in Medicine.[111]

Watt is the older brother of Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T. J. Watt.

Since 2016, Watt has been in a relationship with professional soccer player Kealia Ohai. In 2019, they became engaged.[112][113][114]

Watt was named the Grand Marshal of the 2019 Daytona 500.[115][116]

Charitable work

Watt is the president and founder of the Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment.[117][118] This foundation’s motto, “Dream Big, Work Hard” is sold on wristbands and T-shirts. Since this foundation was launched in 2010, Watt has raised over $1 million.[118] While most of the schools that benefit from the fundraising are in Texas and Wisconsin, schools in Alabama, Illinois, and California have also received donations. Watt’s mother, Connie, is the vice president of the organization. Watt and the J.J. Watt Foundation host a Charity Classic, Run/Walk, Golf Outing, and Tailgate annually.[119] The Charity Classic is a softball game held at Constellation Field, in Sugar Land, Texas, in which Texans players participate in a game, and Home Run Derby to raise money for the foundation.[120] The inaugural Charity Classic game was in 2013, and the 2014 Charity Classic raised over $436,433 towards his foundation.[121] On August 26, 2014, Watt received the Texans Spirit of the Bull Community Award.[122] On November 14, 2014, Watt was nominated for the NFL’s Salute to Service Award that honors either a coach, player, or owner for their efforts in supporting the country’s servicemen and women.[123] Due to the extremely good turnout in 2014, the annual Charity Classic has been moved to Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. The 2015 event raised over $640,000. For the 2017 game, Watt invited Arnold Schwarzenegger and swimmer Simone Manuel, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and native of Houston.[124]

Watt is also known for his interactions with children. On July 2, 2011, the Berry family was traveling home from a vacation in Colorado Springs. The parents, Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in a head-on collision while also leaving their two sons, Peter and Aaron handicapped. Their daughter, Willa, suffered minor injuries. Watt met the children at a fundraiser and grew close with them. He played wheelchair basketball with them and mimed rolling a wheelchair after sacking a quarterback in a 2012 game. The mime was an agreed-upon signal between the Berry children and Watt as a post-sack celebration.[125]

In 2012, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Watt found out some of the families that were affected were in the Houston area. He invited them out on the field to hang out and throw the football. He then proceeded to give them signed merchandise that he had worn in previous games.[126] In October 2015, he dressed up as Batman to surprise kids at the Texas Children’s Hospital for a Halloween party.[127]

He also raised over $37 million ($100,000 of which he personally donated) to help Houston recover from Hurricane Harvey, surpassing his initial goal of $200,000.[128]

After the Santa Fe High School shooting on May 18, 2018 that left eight students and two teachers dead, Watt offered to pay for the funerals of the dead.[129]