Anyone watching the 2015 Pro Bowl this past Sunday night can attest to a couple of facts. One, most of the combatants who participated in the contest were there pretty much in name only…meaning they left their competitive mindset at home. Two, Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t, doesn’t and won’t fit into that category.
Watt registered an interception, recovered a fumble and reportedly even took time out to interact in some crowd participation during commercial breaks in a game that was all about having a good time.
"“I just tried to enjoy it,” Watt told ESPN about the meaningless match up. “That’s what the Pro Bowl is all about, giving the fans a good show. Everybody worked so hard to get here, you want to enjoy yourself and play some good ball…”"
His performance in the Pro Bowl is just another chapter in the history of one of the few players in today’s NFL that exemplifies true leadership while playing on the defensive side of the football.
If you take away the highly celebrated middle linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and, perhaps former Chicago Bears’ linebacker Brian Urlacher, most of the locker room leaders in the league these days are on the opposite side of the line.
There is no denying that it is an offense driven league. Every passing off-season sees more restrictions put on where and how a defender can tackle their offensive counterparts. Many of the hits that are included in NFL Films highlight reels from days gone by would have been flagged and possibly even resulted in a fine from the NFL office.
In a testament to his old school ways, Watt gave Tennessee Titans quarterback Zack Mettenberger a reminder of the importance in respecting the game of football during the Texans’ 30-16 win over the Titans.
Watt mocked the quarterback’s reported selfie with one of his own after sacking him for the second. He followed that up with the post-game comment to ESPN.
"“It’s just kind of a reminder, this is the National Football League, not high school.”"
Watt ranked in #12 in the list of Top 100 Players of 2014, has been named to the Pro Bowl three times and has been named the AFC Defensive Player of the year for 2014. In addition, he was in the mix for NFL MVP after a 2014 season that saw him surpass Mario Williams on the Texans franchise list of most career sacks.
Despite missing the playoffs for a second straight season, Texans’ fans can take heart in the fact that the team turned around their disastrous 2-14 season and were in the post season conversation until a Baltimore Ravens’ win over the Cleveland Browns ended their 2014 campaign.
In that game Watt became the first NFL player to have two 20 sack seasons, after he sacked Jacksonville Jaguars quarter Blake Bortles in the end zone for his first career safety.
"After that disappointing loss, Watt told Fox Sports, “They game me a hundred million, I’m trying to give them a hundred million’s worth.”"
If the Texans’ can get 2013 number one draft pick linebacker Jadeveon Clowney on the field to help Watt and company, the team could improve on their rank of seventh in league defense for 2014. That could only mean good things for a team that narrowly missed playing in January.
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