JJ Watt wreaks havoc at the line of scrimmage as a defensive end for the Houston Texans. Hailing from the small town of Waukesha, Wisconsin, he was not highly recruited as a tight tend or defensive lineman coming out of high school. He accepted a scholarship from Central Michigan but left to walk on to the University of Wisconsin team because of a lack of playing time. He starred for the Badgers for two years before foregoing his senior year and declaring for the draft. Drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Watt has been a force since he entered the league. In his first five seasons, he won three Defensive Player of the Year awards, becoming the second player in NFL history to win the award three separate times.
The 2017 season was momentous for Watt off the field. Hurricane Harvey struck Houston and devastated much of the urban city. Through the JJ Watt Foundation, he raised over $41.6 million for relief and recovery efforts. The charity’s motto “Dream Big Work Hard” was in full effect for the relief.
“I was fortunate enough to witness that generosity first hand, as the fundraiser that I started with a simple goal of $200,000 turned into an unbelievable outpouring of support from people all over the globe,” he said.
Drake and Ellen DeGeneres were just a couple of celebrities who donated to the cause. DeGeneres presented Watt with a check for $1 million from Walmart. All the donations were allocated to cleaning up and repairing homes, rebuilding childcare centers, distributing meals to those affected, providing physical and mental services and medicine to patients.
The hurricane shined a light on the Foundation and the work it does. Disaster relief is not its main function. It aims to provide an opportunity for “kids to be kids” in states with insufficient funding for after-school athletic programs or no athletic programs whatsoever. The foundation wants to encourage these kids that anything is possible if they dream big enough and work hard enough, anything is possible.
Watt was taught these values by his grandfather’s service in the military, his dad’s work as a fireman and his countless hours volunteering. His goal, through the foundation, is to instill that into youth around America and give them the resources and opportunities to succeed.