For the better part of eight years, we in Houston have known that J.J. Watt's sphere of influence ranged well beyond the 100 yards of gridiron he defends on Sundays. His charitable works and superhero episodes with regular, everyday people are legendary. Ironically, though, in a two year period in which Watt has accumulated less than half a full season of football on the field due to injuries, the rest of the world has finally learned just how much figurative earth Watt and his brand can move.
Watt has overseen a charitable foundation going back to his college days at Wisconsin, the mission of which has been to provide equipment and resources for after-school sports in underprivileged areas. In 2017, though, Watt was a philanthropic tour de force, as he used his massive social media platform to generate over $37 million to assist the city of Houston in recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
The NFL recognized Watt by naming him the Walter Payton Man of the Year....
.... and on Thursday, TIME named Watt one of the world's 100 most influential people for 2018.
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Watt was cited in the "Leaders" section of the list, which oddly enough, included some of the most polarizing names in politics and current events, including Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Kim Jong Un. Watt's write up was penned by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner:
Every few years, a professional athlete touches the heart and soul of a city in a way that has nothing to do with athleticism. Such is the case with Houston Texans star J.J. Watt, who is a star on and off the field.
Hurricane Harvey was a historic storm that dumped more than 50 inches of rain, damaged more than 300,000 homes and shattered lives. As Houston’s mayor, I led the response and resiliency efforts. But government can’t do everything for everyone. J.J. tackled Harvey’s destruction the same way he obliterates his opponents on the football field. He raised more than $37 million for hurricane recovery and delivered water, food and supplies to storm victims. In the process, he lifted the spirits of all Houstonians.
Who knows? After I leave office, J.J. Watt could be drafted as the next mayor of Houston.
Other athletes on the list include Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim, tennis icon Roger Federer, and Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant.
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