Few NFL players are respected like JJ Watt, so when the Arizona Cardinals star announced he planned to retire after this season, you knew he was going to get his due.
When Watt’s last game came on Sunday, completing a 12-season, 151-game, and 114.5-sack career, the Cardinals threw him a surprise in a Saturday team meeting that was captured by “Hard Knocks In Season”.
Cardinals interim head coach Vance Joseph singled out Watt, then released a video featuring Watt’s brothers TJ and Derek, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Dak Prescott, Tom Brady, parents John and Connie, his wife Kealia and his son Koa.
Watt was on the verge of tears by the time the first speaker, TJ, finished his first sentence and was downright sobbing halfway through:
The messages were mixed but overall reverential, including “See you in Canton” by Rodgers and “You hurt my ass for a long time” by Brady. It ended with a message from an emotional Kealia:
“It’s been such an honor to watch you work hard over the past few years and do whatever it takes to be your best. You’ve always been so generous, kind and loving to everyone around you, and you never forgot who you are I know Koa will be so proud to be your son.
As you can imagine, Watt was more than appreciative of the posts.
Watt’s career ended Sunday with a two-sack performance against the San Francisco 49ers, whose fans gave him a standing ovation as he walked off the field. Like Saturday, he was visibly moved, as was Kealia.
There’s no doubt that Watt isn’t headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a career that has seen him win three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, five All-Pro nods from the first team and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Award in 2017, for his fundraising work in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Even though injuries limited his playing time in the second half of his career, his peers knew he was an all-time player.