It feels just like it was yesterday when the Texans had the number eleven pick in the 2011 draft. I was at the Texans draft party at NRG and we were ready for a playmaker. Then Roger Goodell delivered a blow to the party scene. The Houston Texans selected JJ Watt from the University of Wisconsin. Boos rang out as our team drafted a virtual unknown. Personally, I have never seen anything like it.
Watt, although perplexed by the boos, made a promise to Houston. His promise was that he would give Houston fans something to cheer about and all of himself. Eight seasons in, Watt has surpassed all expectations. After a few career-threatening injuries, Watt’s football mortality was often discussed nationally and locally. Would he ever be the same transcendent player he was before the back injuries and a freak plateau fracture? This season he has proven the critics and skeptics alike wrong. Not only has Watt maintained his his career averages, he has positioned himself yet again for an unprecedented fourth NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.
According to Houston Texans PR, Watt is averaging .88 sacks per game, which is tops in NFL history since sacks became a stat. In only 99 games played for number 99, Watt is the leader or co-leader in five key all-time defensive categories: 20+ sacks seasons, DPOY awards, Player of the Month Awards, Player of the Week Awards, quarterback hits, and tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus shows that even though Watt missed almost two full seasons, he still leads the league in quarterbacks hits and sacks since 2011.
Watt is rapidly approaching another contract negotiation with the Texans. It goes without saying that the team will make it their mission for Watt to retire in a Texans uniform. It will become a broader conversation in years to come whether it makes good football sense, from a roster building prospective, but for now Texans fans will bask in the glory of having one of the top five greatest defensive players ever here in Houston. Much like Andre Johnson’s number 80, number 99 has become legendary in Houston, never to be worn again. The player many thought was past his prime is still wreaking havoc. Enjoy the ride Houston, because JJ Watt will be the Texans first first-ballot Hall of Famer.