‘It was an absolute honor’: JJ Watt says this will be his final season in the NFL

JJ Watt can be an intimidating presence on the football field, hunting down opposing quarterbacks with unparalleled ferocity, especially during the early 2010s with the Houston Texans.

But the 6-foot-5-inch, 288-pounder can also be a fan favorite, playing catch-up on the sidelines with young fans in the stands before games.

Now one of the best defensive players in NFL history looks like he’s ready to call it a career.

Watt — the three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year — indicated on Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season, He posts pictures of his wife and child on social media while writing: “Koa’s first ever NFL game. My last ever NFL game. My heart fills with nothing but love and gratitude. It was an absolute honor and joy.”

Koa’s first ever NFL game.
My last ever NFL game.

My heart can only be filled with love and gratitude. It was an absolute honor and pleasure.

🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/wXbDUcHM8B

– JJWatt (@JJWatt) December 27, 2022

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Koa’s first ever NFL game.
My last ever NFL game.

My heart can only be filled with love and gratitude. It was an absolute honor and pleasure.

🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/wXbDUcHM8B

– JJWatt (@JJWatt) December 27, 2022

The Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman and his wife, Kelia, became parents in October. Koa is their son’s name.

Watt, 33, was among the best defensive players in the NFL during the early 2010s with the Houston Texans. The former Wisconsin standout was a first-round pick in 2011 and was dominant from 2012 to 2015, finishing that four-year stretch with 69 sacks, earning all AP Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Watt was strong during his rookie season, but became a star in 2012, with an astonishing 20 sacks and 39 tackles for loss. His production dipped slightly in 2013 before two more big seasons. He had 20 sacks in 2014 and 17 cents in 2015.

His production declined during the latter half of his career, largely due to injuries. He missed significant stretches of time in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021, but has rebounded late in his career with the Cardinals — his 9½ sacks this season are the most since 2018.

Watt spent his first 10 seasons with the Texans, leaving in 2021 as one of the most beloved figures in the city’s sports history. His community efforts were unparalleled, highlighted by the fact that he raised over $40 million for Hurricane Harvey relief.

Sports Radio 610, the flagship station in Texas, set up the JJ Watt Goodbye Hotline that received hundreds of messages. The station tweeted a 30-minute montage of the calls, with plenty of snacks like the man who planned to name his twins Jay and Jay and another who sang “I’ll Always Love You.”

But many of the men appeared to choke on tears or sobs through their messages, and one caller from Santa Fe, Texas, thanked Watt for paying for the funerals of the eight students and teachers who died in a school shooting in 2018.

Watt set Texas franchise records for sacks (101), tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (281) and forced fumbles (25).

Watt has spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals. He’s had some of his best football in Arizona over the past few weeks, with three sacks against the Broncos and two tackles-for-loss on Christmas against the Pirates.

The Cardinals and Watt played two more games this season, both on the road against the Falcons and 49ers.


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