Hard Knocks catches J.J. Watt tearing up as Cardinals play retirement video

Jan 11, 2023, 8:18 AM

J.J. Watt’s NFL career ended Sunday following 10 years with the Houston Texans, two more with the Arizona Cardinals and easily enough accolades to land the defensive end in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first run.

Watt walks away as a 33-year-old and new father. Before his last game, a Cardinals loss to the San Francisco 49ers, defensive line coach Matt Burke had the idea to ask Watt’s peers, plus a few close family members, to speak to Watt in a team-produced video.

A teaser for the last episode of the Cardinals-featured Hard Knocks: In Season, which will air Wednesday night, showed how Watt reacted to that send-off video.

Watt’s brother, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, led off the video, and J.J. didn’t make it past that point before breaking down.

His other brother, fullback Derek Watt, as well as his parents, wished Watt a happy retirement. A message from his wife, Kealia, holding their young son Koa caught Watt’s emotions, too.

Fellow future Hall of Famers Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady also made appearances in the video, which the Cardinals posted in full earlier in the week.

Watt heads into retirement with quite the resume.

He did enough in the front half of his NFL career to warrant the likelihood to reach the Hall of Fame in one shot.

After a 5.5-sack rookie season in 2011, he hit double-digits the next four years, including two 20.5-sack campaigns and another 17.5-sack season in 2015. Watt piled up 41 passes defensed and 15 forced fumbles in that four-year run from 2012-15.

He made five First Team All-Pro squads, won NFL Defensive Player of the year three times and led the NFL in sacks in 2012 and 2015.

Injuries struck down four of his next five seasons, but Watt’s full 16-game run this year made for a fine send-off.

He posted 12.5 sacks and seven passes defensed, witnessed the birth of his son and went through a scary health episode of atrial fibrillation, requiring his heart to be shocked back into rhythm.

Through all of that, it became clear to him that he would retire.

Judging from the reaction by his peers and the NFL community at large, his football legacy couldn’t be in a much better spot.

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