When we last left the Houston Texans, they were collectively limping off the NRG Stadium field back in January, embarrassed and beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-0, in an AFC Wildcard Round playoff game. Symbolically, the visual that best captured the ending of the 2015 campaign was a battered and bruised J.J. Watt limping off the field with a shredded groin area.
Well, a lot can happen in three months, and for the Texans, "a lot" means a total remake of their offensive backfield, signing QB Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller. On April 18, the Houston Texans, in their current form for the upcoming 2016 season, will return to NRG Stadium to begin preparations for (hopefully) improving upon their 9-7 record in 2015.
As in every season since his second year in the league in 2012, the Texans' best player this season will be J.J. Watt, now fully recovered from offseason surgery and back to working out full bore. Over the past week or so, Watt did a series of interviews on Sports Radio 610 in anticipation of his upcoming annual charity softball game.
To Watt's credit, these conversations were more than just your standard promotional hits. He spent nearly a combined hour talking with my show (The Triple Threat), the midday show (MaD Radio) and the morning show (In The Loop), in that order. He was candid and playful and clearly excited about the upcoming season.
In fact, here are ten things we learned in the J.J. Watt 610 Interview Trilogy that we did not previously know...
10. J.J. Watt unequivocally did NOT highlight his hair this offseason.
When you're J.J. Watt, merely posting a selfie on Instagram is enough to stir debate, especially when it's as big a heat check as the one below...
While it appears practically beyond a shadow of a doubt that J.J. has done SOMETHING with his hair, he vehemently denies having highlighted it. In fact, he was shocked that my cohost, Ted Johnson, would even ask that question. Ted responded to J.J.'s surprise by acquiescing and disclosing that Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, a former Johnson teammate in their New England days, once highlighted his hair in the offseason. So we basically went from questioning J.J. Watt to arming him with ammo against one of the coaches.
9. J.J. Watt played a big chunk of 2015 with a herniated disk in his back.
In actual Watt-related football news, he gave us his medical rundown, saying that last year was a grind, and oh, by the way, among the injuries that he played with was a herniated disk in his back:
"Last year was, by far, the most strenuous on my body that I've ever had, fighting through a whole bunch of things that I've never dealt with before. I had a broken, I had a herniated disk in my back halfway through the year, obviously everything that went on with my groin."
I just went on injured reserve merely reading that last quote.
8. J.J. Watt actually does NOT hate Titans QB Zach Mettenberger.
In the most awkward exchange of the three interviews, Mike Meltser asked Watt if he hated Zach Mettenberger, which — when you consider the degree to which J.J. seemed to obsess over Mettenberger's social media for the Titans QB's first two seasons in the league — is not a totally out-of-line question. Watt dismissed hating Mettenberger with easily the shortest and most dismissive answer of the three interviews.
7. J.J. Watt's "spark" to be great actually happened all the way back in second grade in a T-ball game.
When he was asked by Seth Payne the moment that he realized he wanted to and could be great, Watt's reply was unexpected:
"There was a drill where the coach hit a pop up to the kids in line, and my turn came, and my coach hit the ball short only a few feet, and I came diving in and made the catch. I could hear people like 'Oh wow', and I remember that feeling of doing something people didn't think I could do, and then you chase that feeling."
6. J.J. Watt will coach high school football someday.
When asked by Meltser (on behalf of a friend of Meltser's) what he would be doing if he weren't playing football, Watt said without hesitation that he'd be coaching high school football, which led him to talk about what he will do after his playing career is through:
"I want to coach high school football when I'm done. Maybe my life takes me a different path with movies and what not, but at some point I will coach high school football."
Movies pay better, J.J. Just sayin'.
5. J.J. Watt will try to get to the upper deck at his charity event.
This is the paragraph where I mention/help promote Watt's event, which is one of the most fun charity events you can find in the city. My kids actually like to fly in from Chicago for Watt's softball game, which moves from Constellation Field in Sugar Land to Minute Maid Park for the first time ever. Tickets in the upper deck are only five bucks, and Watt indicated in the interview with Meltser and Payne that he would try to make it up to the upper deck during the event so that everyone gets the full J.J. experience.
4. If J.J. Watt could play in another era, it would be in the '90s.
Watt was asked by Nick Wright and John Lopez of In The Loop what era Watt would play in if he weren't playing in today's NFL. While J.J. Watt would look like Andre the Giant fighting against luchadores if he played in the '50s and '70s, Watt chose the '90s because that would allow him to play in the same era as his hero, the late Reggie White.
3. J.J. Watt doesn't see himself being one of those guys who play as long as they possibly can.
This was the exchange that got everyone talking earlier this week. A simple question from Wright about how Watt assesses his longevity and what would have to happen for him to walk away from the game turned into all sorts of outlandish headlines about Watt thinking about retiring, which technically he was doing insomuch as he was asked a question about retirement that required him to think. Here's the quote:
"I'm going to continue to play until I feel like I'm not playing at the highest level anymore. I can tell you right now that I am not going to be one of those guys that is going to play as long as I possibly can. I have no interest in that. I want to go out there, I want to play at an extremely high level, I want to help my team out and I want to love playing the game and I want to have fun playing the game. I know I don’t plan on playing the game as long as I possibly can. It’s not going to be terribly longer but I am going to play as long as I can enjoy it and have fun."
2. Of the quarterbacks he has NOT sacked, J.J. Watt most wants to sack Tony Romo.
I think we all approve of J.J.'s thinking on this topic.
1. J.J. Watt broke the rib of that poor bastard he tackled in that Zac Brown Band concert prank.
While Watt confirmed that this stunt was indeed staged (which anyone with a brain knew), he also indicated that the very willing crew member who took the bump agreed to release Watt from any liability with a video on Watt's phone in which he agreed to the sequence, violence and all. Good thing, because according to Watt, the guy dealt with a broken rib for months afterward.
If you would like to listen to the 610 interviews, here is the audio for each one:
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Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.