In any competitive field, having aptitude for your work will help you get by. Throw in a handful of other characteristics, and you could be valued by your organization and excel at your career. But, to be one of the true greats in anything, it requires quite a bit more. In sports, I've always believed there are five traits that are necessary in high quantities make a superstar: God-given ability, work ethic, competitive drive, sports IQ and charisma. Each of these traits lends itself to not just accolades on the field, but off it as well.
Think of some of the great athletes of all time: Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Roger Clemens. All of them had these traits in abundance and it propelled them to extreme success both on and off the floor. It also has a tendency to create problems and all four above athletes have struggled with their fair share of off-the-field issues, much of which is the result of that intense competitiveness.
In Houston at the moment, we have one athlete who has the chops to be a superstar and he might even be able to avoid the demons of other superstars simply because he's such a good guy. That's JJ Watt. It doesn't mean he will turn into one -- things like injuries can end that talk quickly -- but he certainly has a chance. Here's how he breaks down in those five areas.
Men the size of Watt are not normally as quick as he is. It is that devastating combination of size and speed that is so coveted in sports, particularly for a defensive lineman. All the greats had it and Watt has it to spare.
By all accounts, Watt is a tireless worker. He not only works out like a maniac, he spends hours preparing for opponents mentally. Players like Watt must constantly improve their games in order to keep up with the opposition. Every season, Hakeem Olajuwon came back with a new move that made him nearly impossible to stop. If Watt continues to do that, he will be a nightmare for other teams.
Football insiders are fond of discussing the "motor" of players, particularly pass rushers. Watt appears to have a motor that never stops. He is relentless in practice and every down on Sunday. Many say the difference between a true competitor and everyone else is losing hurts him far more than winning makes him happy. This appears to be an accurate description of Watt as well.
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Larry Bird famously told defenders exactly what he was about to do before doing it to them. Players said he seemed to know what was going to happen before it actually happened. Anyone with that kind of high IQ when it comes to his sport has a huge advantage. Watt is a "student of the game," as the cliché goes, but in his case, he's making the Dean's List on the regular.
This is what takes a great on-the-field player to an off-the-field personality and Watt is about as charming as they get. It remains to be seen if he can turn that winning personality into a career outside the white lines at Reliant, but he absolutely seems to have the attitude for it.