Why J. J. Watt Is Everyone's Favorite Player

After being drafted 11th overall by the Houston Texans in the 2011 NFL Draft (amid boos by fans in attendance), J.J. Watt has surpassed all the naysayers’ expectations. Since coming out of the University of Wisconsin four years ago, Watt has quickly become arguably the most formidable defensive threat in the league. 

His numerous accolades back up this reputation: he won two AP Defensive Player of the Year awards (his first in 2012 and his second in 2014), became the first player in NFL history to record over 20 sacks in two seasons, and was voted as the best player in pro football by his colleagues in the league.  

Besides these tangible accomplishments, Watt has emerged as the opposing team's biggest concern in every game. The three-time Pro Bowler had an incredible 2014 season, with stats that give Texans fans a lot to look forward to in 2015. Watt, who stands 6’5” and weighs around 295 pounds, recorded 78 tackles and 20.5 sacks over 16 games. 

While great athleticism usually carries a great number of detractors, this is not the case with Watt. The rest of the football world looks upon him with respect and awe, not only as a result of his prowess on the field, but also due to his actions off of it.   

Elite professional athletes are celebrities in their own right, and thus their social lives are dissected and documented accordingly. As a result, though it is unfair, the legacies of many players are built upon their in-game performance, but then diminished due to their negative relationship with the media.   

For example, Bill Russell is revered for winning 11 NBA championship rings in 13 seasons on the Boston Celtics, but he is equally notorious for his deplorable attitude towards his fans. He did not attend his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1976, and also was not present when the Celtics retired his jersey number (6) in 1972. Though the city and Russell have since arrived at a reconciliation of sorts, Russell still avoids visiting Boston.  

It is much harder to find a player who has mastered the Xs and Os as well as the art of public relations. The fact that J.J.Watt fits this elusive mold elevates him from star player to future legend. Like the NBA’s Stephen Curry or MLB’s David Wright, when Watt makes headlines, it is not because he was caught canoodling with a Kardashian or because he accidentally shot himself in the leg. It is either a result of another record-breaking, highlight reel-making game, or a result of his pure personality shining through an off-the-field event.  

When a player of Watt’s caliber takes time out to help a fan with her birth announcement, it doesn't appear to be publicity stunt or a calculated PR move. On the contrary, it proves that classiness, combined with a bit of quirk, goes a long way. It also reminds fans that, despite the pedestal athletes are put on, a player can rise above egocentrism and petty controversies and show the world that getting nervous in the presence of Jennifer Aniston is inevitable.

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