It's been a while since Houstonians have been able to experience the on-field tour de force that was (and hopefully will be again, soon) J.J. Watt. Nearly two full seasons, to be exact. That dominant version of Watt was good enough to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2012 through 2015, but perhaps the greater symbol of what J.J. Watt embodies as a person is the award he won late last night.
Yes, even recovering from a devastating leg injury and walking with the assistance of a cane, J.J. Watt is bringing home hardware, as he was named the 2017 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, along with fellow Houston sports icon, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
The award was announced on Monday night's Jimmy Fallon Show, at which Watt was in attendance:
SI created the Sportsperson of the Year award in 1954 to recognize the athlete, team, or coach who transcended the year in sports by achieving the highest level of athletic excellence while demonstrating the ideals of sportsmanship. Watt and Altuve most definitely embody the spirit of the award, particularly as beacons of generosity and transcendent performance amidst the strife of Hurricane Harvey.
Watt's fundraising efforts in the wake of Harvey became a statistic that the world followed for nearly two weeks, almost as if we, as a society, collectively had drafted J.J. Watt in some sort of charity fantasy league. The original goal of his YouCaring.com website was $200,000, but that target quickly began climbing in half million to million dollar increments on a daily basis, with the final total eventually settling in at $37 million.
While Watt suffered a season ending leg injury in early October in a Sunday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he has remained diligent in monitoring the disbursement of the funds, and this past week, Watt documented on social media several visits he made to some of the beneficiaries of his charitable efforts.
Reportedly, Watt had been the SI's choice for the award since September, and the injury did not deter the publication from following through with that choice, but after the Astros made their historical run through the MLB postseason, culminating in the franchise's first World Series title, the award committee decided to add Altuve as the co-winner, giving the award this year the perfect mesh of on-field accomplishment with off-field human interest.
Altuve's career story is an improbable dream, and in 2017, he was able to help lead the Astros through a successful postseason run that uplifted the entire city, while also securing the American League Most Valuable Player award.
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Altuve and Watt will be guests of honor at the magazine's Sportsperson of the Year Award presentation in Brooklyn tonight, a show which will air Friday on NBC Sports Network. Watt and Altuve are the first Houston athletes to win the award since its inception in 1954.
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