A certain defensive end has made the last name “Watt” one that garners respect among the Houston and national sports scene since J.J. was drafted in 2011 out of Wisconsin. As J.J. Watt has continued to put work in for the Texans, logging three NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, along with All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, his younger brothers were racking up their own notable accolades at Wisconsin.
J.J.’s brothers, Derek and T.J., slowly developed into game changers of their own while in Madison. Derek played fullback and was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The youngest Watt, T.J., started off as a tight end and made the transition to an edge defender, transforming himself into one of the top edge players in the nation.
After his third fall with the Badgers, T.J. Watt made the transition to outside linebacker where he made a difference. In 2015, Watt appeared in 8 games with only 7 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, but in 2016, the light switched on.
“The hardest thing for me was the steep learning curve, playing offense most of my life,” Watt said of the transition. “Reacting to different plays and dropping into coverage was new to me, but at this point in my game I'm pretty good at everything I do."
His final season with the Badgers saw Watt play in all 14 games, posting 63 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and an interception. His game changing play put him on the map as one of the top edge players in the upcoming NFL draft and shades of what his oldest brother J.J. did for the Texans.
'Yeah, it's huge. Obviously he's put together a really good game plan for how to do it and he's done really well for himself and for the whole state of Wisconsin and the town of Pewaukee we grew up in,” T.J. said of J.J. “He kind of gave me the blueprint of how to do it. Obviously, he's done really good things.”
It wasn’t always easy to be J.J.’s brother after his meteoric rise to the top of the NFL and T.J. had to learn to handle it his own way. However, he has learned to embrace the entire situation.
"Early on when J.J. first started blowing up, I didn't know how to handle it, but now definitely I love it. My brother is the best defensive player to ever play the game, in my opinion,” T.J. explained at the NFL Combine.
T.J. continued, “Obviously I'm biased. When you play the sport of football and you have the person as your role model a phone call, a text away, it's special. And he does it so well and so right. I'm just trying to replicate what he does."
Giving credit a household filled with three future NFL players and a family bond that fostered a competitive environment, T.J. made sure everyone knew he won some too as a kid against his older brothers, despite being the youngest.
“He'll admit it, too,” T.J. asserted regarding J.J. losing some competitions against him when they were younger. “We competed all the time growing up. I beat both my brothers in many things. They beat me in many things as well. You're not always going to win, you're not always going to lose in that house. Pick-up basketball, growing up flag football, anything, eating, it doesn't matter."
T.J. has used J.J.’s advice during the draft process to get ready for interviews with teams and has learned about the traits they are seeking.
"He said it's crazy, don't be surprised how much they have you doing and just be yourself. You don't really have free time here and just enjoy the process,” T.J. said of the advice J.J. gave him for the draft. “You don't get much sleep. It does get tiring, but you can't get lazy and create an attitude because everyone here is going through the same situation. I bounce ideas off of J.J. for this experience."
Watching J.J. play for the Texans over the seasons has set a bar for many players to achieve and T.J. respects the work his brother has put in. He loves the idea of being compared to his older brother and, as T.J. puts it, “Yeah, he's one of the best players to ever do it, why not take that comparison.”
"What I bring is just my work ethic. I know it's a cliche, but I do have a motor that's nonstop,” T.J. stated of what offers his potential suitors. “I’m just always going after the ball. I'm always going to give the team that takes me everything I have."
The draft process is just hitting its stride and T.J. is going to take everything as it come while ensuring he does it his own way. He knows what he has to offer and it is in his blood. After what J.J. has accomplished, and with Derek about to start his second season the NFL, finally, it is T.J.’s turn.
“I’m going to try to follow in his (J.J.’s) footsteps and blaze my own trail at the same time."
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