Until they get a franchise quarterback, it's hard to use the phrase "all was right in the world" when it comes to the Houston Texans. Believe me, there is still a noticeable amount that is WRONG with this team. However, the stars inched much closer to proper alignment on Monday when J.J. Watt returned to the building for the first offseason workouts, and met with the media.
Watt was playful, he was happy, he was in un-freaking-believable condition, and it sounds like he is ready to go for the upcoming season, which is big trouble for opposing offensive lines on the Texans schedule, who will now have to deal with a fully healthy Watt to go with a fully self-aware and activated Jadeveon Clowney (not to mention Whitney Mercilus).
So, just for fun, let's relive the timeline — the good, the great and the really harrowing — of J.J. Watt's Houston Texans career, and think about what the next chapter might hold...
APRIL 28, 2011 - Watt drafted 11th overall by the Texans
It's hard to believe that there was a time when J.J. Watt was not welcomed by the Houston faithful. Perhaps wanting Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley, or perhaps being skeptical of a large, white defensive lineman from the Big Ten (or both), many at the Texans draft party booed the selection of Watt. They now must live with the ignominy that comes with being part of this YouTube clip...
JANUARY 7, 2012 - Playoff game pick-six versus the Bengals
In most unofficial polls or brackets that we've seen for "Greatest Play" or "Most Important Play" in Texans history, this one usually wins. It happened just before halftime of the Texans' first-ever postseason game, and completely swung and secured momentum for the rest of the afternoon...
DECEMBER 23, 2012 - Watt goes over the 20-sack mark
In a 23-6 loss to the Vikings, amidst a 1-3 tailspin to close out a 12-4 campaign, Watt was able to sack Vikings QB Christian Ponder to go over the 20-sack mark on the season, which led to the formality a few weeks later of...
FEBRUARY 2, 2013 - First Defensive Player of the Year Award
...Watt winning the first of his three Defensive Player of the Year awards. The prolific postseason Watt enjoyed as a rookie was merely a harbinger of things to come, as his 20.5 sacks led the league and his 16 passes defended were tops among defensive linemen.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2014 - Watt signs $100M contract, becomes highest-paid defensive player
After another stellar season in 2013, despite the team's wretched 2-14 record, Bob McNair rewarded Watt with a massive contract extension — six years, $100 million, more than $51 million guaranteed, making Watt the highest-paid defensive player in all of football.
SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 - First ever offensive TD for a Texans defensive player
Watt's greatest individual season, in 2014, saw him add a significant wrinkle to his game — the ability to catch the football. Truth be told, Watt's first gig in college football was as a tight end at Central Michigan, so it wasn't completely foreign to him. This was the easiest of his three touchdown catches that season...
JANUARY 31, 2015 - Watt wins first-ever unanimous Defensive Player of the Year
Watt's first Defensive Player of the Year award, in 2012, saw him fall one vote short of winning unanimously. Two seasons later, he would close the deal, becoming the first-ever unanimous DPOY. Watt would also garner 13 votes in the league MVP balloting to finish as the runner-up to Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Watt would go on to win one more DPOY in 2015, making him the first ever to win three in four seasons.
DECEMBER 10, 2015 - Watt breaks hand in practice
Here's where things started to spin out of control health-wise for the first time in Watt's career. In practice during the week leading up to the Patriots game, he broke his left hand, which forced him to wear a club cast and essentially play practically one-handed. This was the precursor to a groin injury Watt had been nursing all season turning into an outright tear in the playoff game, and offseason surgery. Also...
JULY 21, 2016 - Herniated disk surgery, Part !
...as it turns out, Watt had been playing with a herniated disk in his back in 2015 as well. (He revealed that in March 2016 on my radio show.) Quietly, Watt underwent surgery on the disk in late July, and for the first time in his Texans career, the concept of J.J. Watt felt kind of mortal.
SEPTEMBER 29, 2016 - Herniated disk surgery, Part II
Watt made it back for the start of the season, but as it turns out, he rushed back, and the worst thing happened — he re-injured the back, which required a second surgery and put him on the shelf for the remainder of the 2016 season.
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APRIL 17, 2017 - The Return
“I feel very good. Obviously it’s a long offseason and there’s plenty of time to continue to improve and grow. But I think that everybody has done a great job and I’m very fortunate to have good people around me, obviously. But my body feels really good. I’m really looking forward to this whole offseason process and the OTAs and getting back to just playing football. I think that’s the biggest thing. I just want to play football. I can’t wait to get back out there and play some ball.”
Neither can we, J.J. Neither can we.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.