Arizona Cardinals’ JJ Watt announces retirement in tweet that says this will be final NFL season

TEMPE, Arizona– JJ Watt could be a fearsome presence on a football field, chasing opposing quarterbacks with unprecedented ferocity, especially in the early 2010s with the Houston Texans.

But the 6-foot-5, 288-pounder could also be a happy fan favorite, playing catch on the sidelines with young fans in the stands before games.

Now it looks like one of the best defensive players in NFL history is poised for a career.

Watt — three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year — indicated on Tuesday that he will be retiring at the end of the season and posted pictures of his wife and baby to social media, while writing, “Koa’s first NFL game. My last NFL game home game. My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It was an absolute honor and pleasure.”

The Arizona Cardinals defenseman and his wife Kealia became parents in October. Koa is her son’s name.

Watt, 33, was one of the best defensive players in the NFL with the Houston Texans in the early 2010s. The former Wisconsin standout was a 2011 first-round pick and dominated from 2012-15, finishing that four-year stretch with 69 sacks to earn all three of his AP Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Watt was solid in his rookie season but became a star in 2012 with a stunning 20 1/2 sacks and 39 tackles for a loss. Its production declined slightly in 2013 ahead of two other big seasons. He had 20 1/2 sacks in 2014 and 17 1/2 in 2015.

His production slipped in the later half of his career, mostly due to injuries. He missed significant time in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021 but later enjoyed a career resurgence with the Cardinals — his 9 1/2 sacks this season is his most since 2018.

Watt spent his first 10 seasons with the Texans and left in 2021 as one of the most popular figures in the city’s sports history. His charitable efforts were second to none, highlighted by raising more than $40 million for Hurricane Harvey relief.

Sports Radio 610, the Texans flagship, set up the JJ Watt Goodbye Hotline, which received hundreds of messages. The broadcaster tweeted a 30-minute montage of the calls, featuring many lighter fare like the man planning on naming his twins Jay and Jae and another singing “I Will Always Love You.”

But several men sounded like they were choking back tears or actively crying during their messages, and a caller from Santa Fe, Texas thanked Watt for paying for the funerals of the eight students and two teachers killed in a 2018 shooting there died in a school.

Watt set Texans franchise records in sacks (101), tackles for loss (172), quarterback hits (281), and forced fumbles (25).

Watt has spent the last two seasons with the Cardinals. He’s played some of his best football games in Arizona in recent weeks, with three sacks against the Broncos and two tackles for a Christmas loss to the Buccaneers.

The Cardinals and Watt have two more games this season, both away against the Falcons and the 49ers.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Arizona Cardinals’ JJ Watt announces retirement in tweet that says this will be final NFL season

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