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CloakNNNdagger 01-10-2012 08:50 PM

Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
Texans are getting some nice national recognition.


January 10, 2012


HOUSTON — Only three years ago, J. J. Watt was delivering pizzas, mopping floors and being picked at like a leftover pepperoni pie by doubters who scoffed at his football dreams.

He had walked away from a scholarship at Central Michigan, taken a job at Pizza Hut and enrolled in a community college, with the goal of someday walking on at Wisconsin. That path forged his determination on the way to becoming a first-round N.F.L. draft pick. Those memories are still fresh enough to motivate Watt, a rookie defensive end who etched himself in Houston Texans lore last Saturday with an interception return for a touchdown that sparked a 31-10 wild-card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It’s your dream, and you can do anything you want,” Watt said amid the celebration of the Texans’ victory in the first playoff appearance in the franchise’s 10-year history.

“There’s a lot of people who counted me out,” he said. “There’s a lot of people when I worked at Pizza Hut who told me: ‘You’ll never do anything for the Badgers. I don’t believe you’ll ever play for the Badgers.’ People didn’t believe in me and now to do something like that in an N.F.L. playoff game, it’s truly special.”

Watt wears wristbands that read, Dream Big. Work Hard, and teammates said it was a matter of when, not if, Watt’s work ethic would result in a big play. With less than a minute to play in the first half, Watt stared down Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, raised his gloved hands and snared Dalton’s pass as if he were putting a short leash on a stray dog.

To his teammates, it could have been a scene from a late November walkthrough, when Watt unleashed his intensity on the newly acquired veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, knocking down three of his passes.

“I felt terrible,” said Watt, who is 6 feet 5 inches and 288 pounds. “He was kind of mad at me. I didn’t know if we were allowed to bat balls in the walkthrough, and I just kept batting them because that’s kind of my deal.”

Linebacker Brian Cushing said of Watt’s skill: “He’s real fanatic about it. He’s always getting his hands up on a pass rush or whatever during practice. If you just continue to do it all the time, it’s going to happen in the game.”

The Texans will face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday (1 p.m. Eastern) in an A.F.C. playoff game, and Watt will be watching quarterback Joe Flacco, trying to anticipate a quick flare to running back Ray Rice or a short out to a wide receiver, like the pass Dalton intended for A. J. Green that Watt turned into one of the memorable plays from last weekend.

Watt’s rookie season coincided with a stunning turnaround for Houston’s defense. The unit was ranked 30th in total defense last season but improved to No. 2 this season.

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was the only Texans defender to be recognized as a Pro Bowl player, and he was chosen as a reserve. Watt and three other defensive players are alternates. The defense is a group that is mostly unfamiliar with the postseason, too: 39 players on the 53-man roster made their first playoff appearance against the Bengals.

“We try to alternate guys, but they’re all every-down players, and that’s the key,” Houston’s defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, said. “High motor, high energy — that’s the way that we want to play defense.”

Watt fits that profile and quickly justified his distinction as the Texans’ first pick (11th over all) in Phillips’s first draft with the team. Watt registered five and a half sacks, including one of Houston’s four sacks against the Bengals.

“You want your top picks to be good players, but they usually don’t develop that quickly,” Phillips said. “You can see it throughout the season with him that he’s just a really good football player.”

Watt was a tight end at Central Michigan and caught eight passes as a freshman in a spread offense. But after he was asked to switch to offensive tackle, he decided to transfer and attempt to walk on at Wisconsin, whose Madison campus is about an hour’s drive from Pewaukee, Wis., his hometown.

Watt’s parents offered to help him financially for one year so he could pursue his dream. Watt soon enrolled at a community college, slung pizzas and mopped floors, telling anyone who would listen about his plan to play for the Badgers and his dream of making it to the N.F.L.

As he explained the details of his interception of Dalton, Watt was asked about his vertical leap being measured at 36 inches at the predraft scouting combine.

“Thirty-seven,” Watt said, quick to correct the record once again for any doubters still out there. “I don’t think I got that high off the ground, but I did have a 37-inch vertical, so thank you.”

CloakNNNdagger 01-10-2012 08:54 PM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
This from

Watt, Reed, Yates -- all rookies -- helped push Houston Texans into playoffs for 1st time
Tuesday, January 10, 4:31 PM


HOUSTON — When the Texans opened training camp, right tackle Eric Winston wasn’t expecting much from the incoming rookie class.

It wasn’t that Winston lacked confidence in the choices coach Gary Kubiak and general manager Rick Smith made in the draft. Winston just hadn’t seen many first-year players mature quickly enough to make dramatic impacts.

J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and T.J. Yates turned out to be exceptions.

The three have played pivotal roles in helping the Texans (11-6) survive a myriad of injuries to reach the postseason and advance to the second round. Houston plays at Baltimore (12-4) on Sunday for a berth in the AFC championship game.

“Any time you have this many injuries and you have contributions not from vets, but from rookies stepping up and making big plays in big games,” Winston said, “that’s why a team goes as far as it does.”

Watt, who’s started all 17 games at defensive end, leads the Texans in tackles for loss and made the defensive play of the season, returning an unlikely interception for a touchdown in last week’s 31-10 win over Cincinnati.

Yates kept Houston afloat after season-ending injuries to quarterbacks Matt Schaub (right foot, Lisfranc) and Matt Leinart (broken left collarbone).

Reed ably moved into a starting role at outside linebacker and made sure the defense didn’t miss a beat when star Mario Williams went down.

“You never know how a season’s going to go,” Winston said. “You never know if you’re going to be blessed from an injury standpoint, or you’re going to have to have guys that have got to go (play).

“We’ve definitely had one of those years that we’ve had guys who’ve had to go.”

The 6-foot-5, 288-pound Watt was pegged as a starter from the moment Houston took him with the 11th overall pick. Texans fans were initially turned off by the selection, with more recognizable names still on the board, and Watt took notice.

“I remember a lot of people in Houston’s reaction on draft day and obviously, I don’t have any problem with it,” he said. “It was warranted at the time. But it was always my goal from Day 1 to prove to them that I was the football player that the city of Houston would hopefully come to love and I’ll always continue to work to make the city proud.”

And Watt proved to be NFL-ready, manhandling linemen and swatting away passes from early on in August workouts. He recovered a fumble in the opener, got his first sack in the third game and won over fans with his relentless energy.

Then came Saturday’s playoff game. Watt timed his jump just like he’s done in practice all season, snatched Andy Dalton’s pass with both hands and sprinted 29 yards for a score that put the Texans ahead to stay.

“You want your top picks to be a good player, but they usually don’t develop that quickly,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said.

The 6-3, 250-pound Reed was a second-round pick out of Arizona. He moved into the starting role after Williams tore a chest muscle in Week 5. He played defensive end in college, and has made a seamless adjustment to outside linebacker, with six sacks, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries this season.

“You know, you lose Mario Williams, you’ve got to step in there for Mario Williams,” Kubiak said, “so how’s he going to react to that? We knew he’d be a good player, but I think the job he did as quickly as he’s done has been exceptional.”

Yates, a fifth-round pick, was also thrown into the starting role earlier than expected. The Texans liked him because he played a similar offensive scheme at North Carolina.

He became an instant hero in Houston after winning his first two starts, then struggled in his next two, both losses. He had modest numbers against Cincinnati — 11 for 20 for 159 yards — but saved his best throw for when it mattered most, dropping a perfect 40-yarder into the arms of Andre Johnson for a touchdown in the second half.

As with Watt and Reed, Yates’ maturity and performance have won over his teammates.

“As a rookie quarterback, for not being dressed in the beginning of the season, holding the clipboard, and then being thrown in the fire, I’m extremely impressed,” Winston said. “I’m in the league for nine years, and you see some guys just get the jitters, and not just the quarterback, but every position. Having the jitters is a good thing, but he does a great job of staying relaxed and poised, and that’s what you need at a quarterback position.”

bigfan77801 01-10-2012 09:03 PM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
Awesome finds, thanks for sharing.

SAMURAITEXAN 01-10-2012 09:23 PM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
Nice find Doc. The last quote on Washington Post article from AJ I think.

TexansFanatic 01-10-2012 11:14 PM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
Must Spread Rep. Thanks, Doc. Great reads.

TimeKiller 01-11-2012 08:42 AM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
Alright team, who's gonna man up and make a play?!?





Blake 01-11-2012 10:06 AM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
All I know is I knocked over my chair, tipped the table, spilled a glass of water and almost knocked over 4 beers when Watt made the pick 6. What a play. Will live forever.

76Texan 01-11-2012 10:25 AM

Re: Texans’ Watt Makes a Play as Big as His Dreams
I bet we will see some short of story on Watt comes game day! :whip:

They'll probably feature AJ as well as a couple of rookies besides Watt. :doot:

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