HOUSTON — With JJ Watt's recent retirement announcement, many are reflecting on his incredible impact on the game of football, but it's his work in the community that really makes him a star player.
During his time as a Texan, Watt became a Houston icon. It was his game-changing tackles and life-changing service to the community that made Houstonians fall in love with him.
In September 2017, Houston experienced one of its worst tragedies -- Hurricane Harvey. Dozens of lives were lost and thousands of people's homes were destroyed as rain fell across Houston for nearly four days straight.
In the midst of the storm, Watt created a fundraiser to help those impacted, even kicking off the fundraiser with a $100,000 donation. His goal was to raise $200,000 to help those in need but at the final tally, he raised more than $41 million with donations from around the world.
According to Watt's foundation, two years after Harvey the donations helped:
- Clean up, repair and rebuild over 1,183 homes
- Recover and rebuild 971 childcare centers serving more than 108,731 children
- Distribute over 239 million meals to those affected
- Provide mental health services to over 8,900 individuals
- Distribute prescriptions to over 337,000 low-income and uninsured patients
Assisting shooting victims
The Santa Fe High School shooting was another tragedy that shocked the community. Ten people died and 13 more were injured after a student opened fire inside the school. Most of the victims were students.
Watt offered to pay the funeral expenses for all of the victims.
It's unknown if Watt indeed covered the funeral expenses for the victims, but at least one of the victim's families accepted his offer.
If there's one thing Watt fans know -- he loves the kids!
One person that can attest to that is Cristian Beasley. He first met Watt when he was just 12 years old and battling Leukemia.
One day, Watt surprised Beasley and spent an entire afternoon at his house. Years later, when Beasley graduated high school, in true J.J. fashion, he tweeted about the proud moment, calling Beasley his friend.
“I watched every game, and I texted him after every game," he said.
In 2020, during the peak of the COVID pandemic, Watt surprised another patient who underwent emergency neurosurgery at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
The message encouraged Stu, who had a rare chromosomal disorder in which chromosome 14 appears three times, to stay strong.
Stu is known to keep up with the Texans’ stats, most notably Watt's stats and in a video message, Watt told Stu that he had hoped to give him "plenty of stats to keep up with" during the 2020 season. Also in the video, Watt commended Stu for his strength.
J.J. Watt Fan Appreciation Day
Because of Watt's overwhelming, philanthropic work in the City of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed Sept. 9 as JJ Watt Day. He was honored for being Houston's Hometown Hero.