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Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt announced his retirement on the conclusion of this season, writing in a tweet Tuesday that Sunday’s time beyond regulation loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was his last home game.
“Koa’s first ever NFL game. My last ever NFL home game,” Watt wrote in a post with accompanying photos of his infant son. “My heart is crammed with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.”
Koa’s first ever NFL game.
My last ever NFL home game.
My heart is crammed with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) December 27, 2022
Over 12 NFL seasons, including his first 10 with the Houston Texans, Watt was essentially the most disruptive defensive force within the league at times, earning defensive player of the 12 months honors in 2012, 2014 and 2015. A five-time Pro Bowl honoree, he twice led the league in sacks and was a unanimous selection to the NFL’s 2010s all-decade team.
Watt, 33, began his college profession as a decent end at Central Michigan in 2007 before he walked on at Wisconsin the next 12 months and have become the Badgers’ defensive scout team player of the 12 months during his redshirt season in 2008. He developed into an all-American defensive end and was taken by the Texans with the eleventh pick within the 2011 NFL draft.
In Houston, Watt established himself as a surefire future Hall of Famer on the sector and one among the league’s most recognizable figures off it.
Watt posted staggering numbers during his first five seasons, playing every game and becoming one among the NFL’s most feared defensive players. He tallied 20.5 sacks in only his second season in 2012, then matched that total in 2014, becoming the primary player to cross the 20-sack threshold twice. Throughout the 2014 season, Watt added 4 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills.
He had a league-leading 17.5 sacks the next 12 months in 2015 despite batting a groin injury and a fractured hand, and he has consistently fought through injuries since then. The subsequent 12 months, a pair of back surgeries bookended — and eventually ended — his 2016 campaign after three games. A broken leg nixed his 2017 season after five games, and a pectoral tear limited him to eight games in 2019.
Throughout that point, Watt became an iconic figure in Houston.
He made impromptu home, hospital and fire house visits bearing autographed jerseys. In 2013, he “proposed” to a young fan at NRG Stadium with a Ring Pop. And he welcomed trick or treaters at his home until his fame made the practice unsustainable. In 2020, he married former Houston Dash soccer star Kealia Ohai.
Most notably, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the town in 2017, Watt set out to lift $200,000 to assist recovery efforts. He ultimately raised greater than $41 million.
Those contributions made his 2021 departure all of the more bitter for some Texans fans after he was cut by the team that February at his request.
Watt played seven games during his debut season with the Cardinals last 12 months before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. To that time, Watt had not tallied greater than five sacks in a season since 2018.
This season, nonetheless, Watt leads the Cardinals with 9.5 sacks and is tied for twelfth within the NFL. It’s a figure that pales compared to a few of his best years yet represents a resurgence within the face of Arizona’s poor play. The Cardinals were eliminated from playoff contention this month, but Watt has a probability so as to add to his 111.5 profession sacks with two games left. He may add to his profession totals in forced fumbles (27) and fumble recoveries (17).
This season has not been without its personal challenges for Watt. After experiencing atrial fibrillation on Sept. 28, Watt had his heart shocked back in rhythm. Three days later, he played against the Carolina Panthers. The week after that, he found his method to the quarterback against the Philadelphia Eagles.