JJ Watt is in the midst of his 12th season in the NFL, the second of which is coming as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year spent the first decade of his career, of course, as the heart and soul of the Houston Texans before taking on a new challenge last year. While he’s only three games into his sophomore campaign in the desert, Watt tells Uproxx Sports he found himself more comfortable entering this campaign.
“I think no matter who you are, how long you’ve done anything, your second year somewhere is always going to be slightly more comfortable,” Watt says. “I mean, everything from just getting settled in a house and getting settled, my wife and the dogs and everything, just getting settled into life.”
Earlier this month, Uproxx Sports sat down with Watt via his partnership with Gatorade to discuss the season so far, what the team can take away from their wild win over the Las Vegas Raiders, and much more.
What do you got going on with Gatorade?
A few of us were given the opportunity to create our own Gatorade bottles — myself, Lionel Messi, Christian Pulisic, and DK Metcalf. I grew up on Gatorade, Gatorade is literally sports, Gatorade is everything. And so, for the opportunity to create my own bottle was very special. There’s not many things as an athlete that are iconic like that, and Gatorade is iconic. So we got to create my own bottle. We spent some time going through, trying to think what’s important to me, what’s been important in my career. And the theme always comes back to Dream Big, Work Hard. That’s the motto of my foundation, it’s kind of the motto I’ve lived my life by, and it’s, as an athlete, what’s gotten me to where I am.
So we have two sides to the bottle. One side is all work, and then when you cut away, you have the dream underneath. Because the dream is the motivation behind the work — when you’re struggling in a workout, when you’re grinding, you got to have that thing in the back of your mind to keep you going. And then the other side, we have it backwards where we have the dream, and then underneath the dream is the work, because you can have the biggest dreams in the world, but if you’re not putting in the work, you’re never going to accomplish them. So it’s all about how you got to have the big dream, but you also have to be willing to put in the work. And it’s very cool, and I can’t wait, I hope other people are motivated by it. I’m excited to use it myself on the sidelines.
I know there are two camps with Gatorade: you refer to Gatorade by colors or you refer to them by their flavors. Which one do you go with?
The traditionals I go by colors, so you have yellow, you have blue, you have orange, you have red. And then when I get into the deeper cuts, then I go more by flavor — Fierce Grape, Rain Berry, Glacier Freeze, some of those where you have to get specific. Blue is blue, but then you have light blue, which is Glacier Freeze. So, I do love both.
Speaking of blue, one of the other guys involved in this project is Christian Pulisic. And obviously I know you’re a big Chelsea supporter. What are your thoughts on Christian as a player, especially with such a big tournament coming around the corner for Americans?
He’s obviously a great player, he can do many things, and obviously with the World Cup coming up, I hope he goes on an absolute tear and I hope he just dominates. Hasn’t gotten as much action in this Chelsea side as maybe he and we would like, but you know, that’s the way it goes. He has a Champions League, and so he’s done some incredible things there, he’s got some goals in Champions League. So I’m hoping that the World Cup is a special event for him.
Let’s talk about football a little bit. We’re two weeks into the season, how are you feeling about things so far?
I feel good. Obviously we had a rough start, and then had a rough start in the second game, but we found a way, wild game, crazy game, came back. So here we sit 1-1, we’ve got a very good Rams team coming in on Sunday into our stadium, and we’re looking forward to this opportunity. Divisional game, Super Bowl champs, all that, and it’s a great opportunity for us. We’re looking forward to this weekend.
Did you find a little bit … easier might not be the word, but last offseason you’re busy getting to a new team, have to learn what life is like there, have to learn what it’s like to play on that team. Or have you been at this long enough that from day one, you were able to walk in and just get used to life in a new place?
I think no matter who you are, how long you’ve done anything, your second year somewhere is always going to be slightly more comfortable. I mean, everything from just getting settled in a house and getting settled, my wife and the dogs and everything, just getting settled into life. And then obviously, with teammates and coaches, schemes and everything, you do as much as you can and it’s certainly not the most difficult thing in the world. But there’s no question in your second year you are more comfortable.
I want to ask about that game against the Raiders. When you have a game like that, how long do you ride that high? You’re on that high for just a day? Do you have a little pep in your step for the entire week? Or is it the sort of thing that you go through the entire season knowing hey, we’ve done this before, we’ve been here, we know if we’re down, we can come back because we have done it already?
Yeah, I think that you don’t ride the high for overly long. I think that’s a next day thing, maybe Tuesday. But then, what you do use is use what you learned from it. We use the resilience, the overcoming adversity, the ability to know that even though we started the game horribly, we were down 20-0 at half, we knew that we had the opportunity to come back and if we played the second half the way we’re capable of, we would win. And so now we carry that with us the rest of the season. We don’t want to ever start a game like that again, we don’t want to put ourselves in adverse situations. But we know that when those situations do arise, we’re equipped to handle it.
I’m guessing that there’s a sense of belief among you guys that when you have a guy like number one at quarterback, you never feel like you’re going to be out of a game.
You watch some of the plays that he makes and what he’s able to do, there’s not many people in the world that are capable of doing that, and we got one. So, he’s capable of making unbelievable plays back there, and he did it. e showed that he can do it when it’s important. And it gives you a whole lot of belief.
As someone whose entire career has been, “I have to stop the best quarterbacks in the NFL from doing their thing,” what is it that maybe we don’t see that makes Kyler such a unique and special football player?
I think you saw it especially on that two point conversion play. Not only can he throw the ball, not only can he run, he can just make magic happen back there. That was what an 18, 20-second play. I’m 290 pounds, I’m in good shape, but I’m not running around for 20 seconds. The guys are dead, you’re dead tired, trying to chase him around. But he’s fresh, he’s bouncing around, and he can run 83 yards in one play and run it into the end zone, and everybody else’s gassed, but he sees the gaps, he sees the holes. And then the next two point conversion, he can fire a bullet into the back of the end zone to AJ Green. He can do both of those things and it’s very, very difficult for a defense to stop, because … I don’t know if there is a way.
You’re someone whose commitment to training, preparation, super well documented, but at the same time, as everyone knows, Father Time is undefeated. How has your routine change as you become more experienced in the league? What are the things that you still do? What things have you added that have helped you keep playing at such a high level 12 years in?
You have to learn, you know, some things you learn the hard way and some things you just learn as time goes on. But you learn how to adapt and how to change your routines and your programs to elongate that career. Like you said, it’s undefeated, but there are ways to lengthen it, whether it’s things like more stretching, or you find a different way to do the same exercise to get the same benefit without putting as much stress on your body, or it’s adjusting a training camp practice schedule, whatever those things may be. That’s what we’ve tried to do to make sure that the 17 games during the season are the most important thing.
With games on Sundays or Mondays, do you build into your Saturday schedule to go “I’m setting aside a little bit of time to make sure I’m watching my alma mater”?
Oh, absolutely. Out Saturday schedule works out perfect, especially because it’s a home game this week. So we’ve got morning work, so I’ll work from seven o’clock until noon. And then then we got the middle of the day wide open. So I go home and you have to rest, anyway. So just kick my feet up on the couch, have a little film on or watch the boys play, and then we go to the hotel at night to get ready for the game. But I got some buddies in town from Wisconsin this weekend, some of my high school buddies, so you can bet we’re going to be posted up on the couch watching the boys.
What gets you more excited, fired up, whatever it might be: Watching your brothers play when you’re watching one of their games, or watching Wisconsin play when you’re watching one of their games?
My brothers by far. I mean that’s blood. I get more into my brothers’ games than anything, it is the coolest, best thing in the world. I love it. I get more nervous, obviously I play the game, I’ve had injuries, my own stuff I never get nervous. When I’m watching a game, I get crazy nervous for my brothers and I get crazy excited when they make a play. I’m pretty sure I get more excited when they make one than when I make one. It’s the coolest thing in the world to me, all three of us in the NFL, there’s nothing like it.