J.J. Watt on retirement decision: ‘I hope I made everybody proud’

Dec 28, 2022, 5:48 PM

Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Arizona Cardinals DE J.J. Watt (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — When you know, you know.

Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt and those close to him had an idea for weeks — if not months — that his time wrecking opposing offenses was coming to a close.

There were just two things left to accomplish for someone who has achieved so much on and off the field:

1. Have his son Koa in attendance for a game.

2. Avoid one last leak of information.

So after completing one of his lifelong dreams of having his son and the rest of his family together for a home game, Watt made sure to close the chapter on another in pure Watt fashion, his own terms.

“It’s the right time. I feel like it’s the right time,” Watt said Wednesday. “I put so much into the game and the wins and the losses and the mental stress and passion that comes with it, it just weighs on you. It’s heavy, it’s really heavy. Losses are very tough to take, and you live with the highs and the lows. I’ve always said, I’d rather live with the highs and the lows than never know the middle.

“I got a son now, obviously, I had a heart scare in the middle of the year, so there’s certainly some of that that played into it, but I’m very happy and I’m very at peace with it.”

Watt calls it quits after an illustrious career of physical dominance on the field and an undying desire to use his platform to give back to the many communities that have taken him in over the years.

There hasn’t been much Watt hasn’t accomplished over his 12-year career, whether that was being named the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, earning three Defensive Player of the Year honors or creating the J.J. Watt Foundation, that has help so many away from the game.

The outpouring the lineman has received from people of all different walks of life since his announcement is proof of that.

But while a flood of well wishes and congratulations have rightfully taken over Watt’s life in recent days, he hasn’t lost sight on how he got here in the first place.

“The thing that I don’t want to get lost is that I never did it alone,” Watt said. “I’ve had so many incredible people help me. My parents also told me … ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It truly has taken many villages to raise me and help me become who I am and to do the things that I’ve done. I didn’t do anything by myself. I didn’t train myself, I didn’t feed myself, I didn’t build my foundation by myself, I didn’t build my career by myself, I didn’t run that (Hurricane Harvey) fundraiser by myself.

“I had incredible people every single step of the way and I’m unbelievably fortunate. … The only thing that I can say at the end of it all is that I hope I made everybody proud. That’s my ultimate goal. I want all those people to know that their efforts weren’t in vain, that I tried to make everything I could with it.”

For some, Watt’s decision may come as a bit of a surprise.

Despite missing a game with a calf strain and dealing with his health scare earlier in the season, among other team issues, Watt has turned his best season since 2018.

Through 14 games, the lineman paces the team in sacks with 9.5, QB hits with 21 and tackles for loss with 14 to go along with six passes defensed.

He’s been one of the lone bright spots in what has turned out to be a disappointing season for the Cardinals.

And while he would obviously love to end his career with his team on top, Watt has no regrets in calling it quits amid a stellar season.

“I definitely knew that I wanted to be playing good ball,” Watt said. “I’ve obviously gone through some injuries over my career and that’s extremely frustrating, because I know what I’m capable of. I know who I can be and who I should be as a player. There’s been years where I haven’t been able to display that and I haven’t been able to be that player and that hurt. There’s no question about it.

“Being able to play good ball, being able to leave good memories, being able to have some good film to show my son, that was definitely important to me. So, I think that’s also part of the reason that despite playing decent ball right now, it’s a good time to walk away.”

As for what’s next for the lineman after Arizona wraps up the last two games on the 2022 docket, Watt isn’t too sure.

But if you ask head coach Kliff Kingsbury, there’s more of a chance Watt gets into the movie business than takes over a clipboard and a whistle.

“I would say Hollywood before coaching if I had to guess,” Kingsbury said with a smile on Wednesday. “Him and The Rock would be a good tandem.

“They’d have to pay them a lot of money … both those guys,” the head coach added.

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