Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt announced yesterday that the 2022-23 NFL season will be his last.
Watt -- who spent the first 10 years of his career with the Houston Texans -- currently has 111.5 career sacks and 580 combined tackles. He will retire as the only player with multiple 20-sack seasons (2012, 2014), and one of just three players to win the AP Defensive Player of the Year Award three times, along with former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor and current Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
While you would expect such eye-popping sack and tackle numbers from a defensive end, perhaps the only thing more impressive than his total in those categories is that he currently has 69 passes defensed as well. His knack for knocking passes down earned him the nickname “J.J. Swat” and forced opposing teams to take radical approaches on how to prepare to paly against him.
Before a Monday Night Football matchup in December 2012 matchup with the Texans, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick swung racquetball rackets at quarterback Tom Brady during passing drills to get a visual for how imposing Watt’s presence was.
“I know coach [Bill] Belichick likes to bring guys with racquetball paddles and stick those up in the air,” Brady said at the time. “ I’m sure there will be a whole bunch of those there this week, which doesn’t always make me very happy, but that’s probably a good way to prepare for it.”
But Watt didn’t just limit his impact to the gridiron and sought to be an active member of whichever city he called home. During the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which rocked Houston in 2017, watt initiated a fund to raise money for Harvey’s victims that in just 19 days raised $37 million and helped him win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for that year.
Watt’s legacy on and off the field should be enough to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he first becomes eligible in 2028. It will be a long time before we see a defensive end as talented and extraordinary as him.
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