After what can only be described as a disappointing sports season in Houston, another star has flown the proverbial coup. J.J. Watt, former defensive end for the Houston Texans, reached an agreement with the Texans for his release from the team. Watt is the latest in a string of star players to depart from the city in a hasty fashion joining former Rockets’ players James Harden and Russell Westbrook, as well as Astros’ player George Springer.
Watt made his dissatisfaction with the team clear towards the end of this losing season criticizing the questionable efforts being made on and off the field. He even went as far as to apologize to Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson as they walked off the field following the last game of the season. “Good job brother. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Watt told Watson. “We wasted one of your years. I’m sorry. I mean, we should have 11 wins. We should.”
Watt was drafted to the Texans in 2011. He was the 11th pick overall and was mercilessly booed upon being drafted. Watt quickly made a name for himself in Houston, winning Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times and making the All-Pro team 5 times. He was named the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year and is the Texans franchise all-time sack leader with 101 sacks. Amidst the success, Watt suffered multiple injuries that included a dislocated elbow, dislocated fingers, abdomen tears, hernias, leg fractures, a pectoral tear, and a knee strain. He played hard and left it all out on the field.
Watt was also a leader off the field and led the effort to raise funds in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. His fundraising efforts amassed $30 million.
Instead of releasing an iOS press release statement Watt posted a video on social media explaining his decision. Watt said, “I wanted to do this on video, as opposed to putting out a statement or doing a press conference or anything like that, because I want you guys to hear it directly from me. I want to speak directly to you and the city of Houston, so you can hear the words straight from my mouth. I have sat down with the McNair family, and I have asked them for my release. And we have mutually agreed to part ways at this time.”
He went on to say, “I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who’d never really been to Texas before. And now I can’t imagine my life without Texas in it. The way that you guys have treated me…besides draft night. I mean, you guys booed me on draft night. But every day after that, you treated me like family. And I truly feel like you’re my family. Since that day, I have tried to do everything in my power to work and earn your respect, and try and make you proud, on and off the field.”
Watt continued, “You guys have given me everything and more and I can only hope that you feel like I’ve given you everything that I have. The city of Houston has been unbelievable to me. It’s where I met my wife. It’s where I’ve met lifelong friends and my teammates. I’ve had incredible coaches and training staff and equipment staff, cafeteria workers and the weight room staff, and the front office people, people in the streets, people in restaurants, grocery stores and showing up at my house. The connection is special and I will never ever take that for granted because I know how rare it is.
“I’m excited and looking forward to a new opportunity,” he said finally. “And I’ve been working extremely hard but at the same time it’s always tough to move on. I just want you guys to know that I love you. I appreciate you. I appreciate the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL. Thank you, Houston. I love you.”
Texans Chair and CEO Cal McNair released a statement saying, “Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love. J.J.’s impact on not only our organization, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise’s history. I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon.’ For now, we will build upon the foundation that J.J. created here and forge ahead with our unwavering mission to bring a championship to our city, create memorable experiences for our fans and do great things for Houston.”
While the team could have traded him, ultimately, he was released so he would have an opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contending team. After all Watt has done for the city, a release seems a reasonable request.
The love for Watt is real. Upon learning the news about his departure, fans began donating in $99 dollar increments (#99 was his jersey number) to his foundation named the ‘Justin J. Watt Foundation.’ The foundation focuses on funding after school athletic programs in middle schools that are located in Wisconsin and Texas.