Football runs in the Watt family. First, J.J. Watt entered the NFL in 2011 and became one of the best defensive players in the league for the Houston Texans. In 2016, Derek Watt was drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers. This year, linebacker Trent Jordan “T.J.” Watt was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 30th overall pick.
Coincidentally, Watt and J.J. could play against each other on Christmas Day, since the Texans are scheduled to play the Steelers that day.
At 22 years old, Watt is the youngest of the three brothers. All three went to the University of Wisconsin and played for the Badgers. They did all go to the same high school, but since Watt is six years younger than J.J. Watt, he hasn’t had to play against his famous brother.
Here’s what you need to know about TJ.
1. He’s Dating Badgers Soccer Player Dani Rhodes
Watt is dating Dani Rhodes, who plays soccer for the Badgers. According to her Wisconsin profile, the Waukesha, Wisconsin native was named to the 2016 All-Big Ten Freshman team and she played in all 22 matches in the 2016 season. in the second round of the NCAA tournament, she scored a goal against Florida.
In high school, Rhodes also played basketball at Waukesha West and was the basketball team captain in her junior and senior years. She was a high honor roll student member as well.
“Dani is not only one of the best soccer players in the state, but she’s also a leading scorer in Wisconsin for basketball,” her Badgers soccer coach, Paula Wilkins, told the Wisconsin site.
2. He Suffered Injuries to Both Knees & Had Surgery Performed by the Texans Team Doctor
Watt didn’t have a completely injury-free college career. In fact, he’s injured both of his knees and had to have surgery performed on his right knee by Texans team doctor Walt Lowe, notes The Ringer.
Watt injured his right knee during a blocking drill before the 2013 Capital One Bowl. He dislocated the kneecap, tearing his medial patellofemoral ligament. Thankfully, he didn’t need surgery and was able to let it heal naturally. But after practice, the same thing happened to his left knee. Two days before 2014 fall camp started, it happened to his right knee again. This time, he decided he needed surgery and used his older brothers’s connections to get Lowe to perform the procedure.
After spring practice in 2015, his left knee was injured again. He called his parents, John and Connie.
“We knew they were practicing and it was right in the middle of it, so we knew that it wasn’t going to be good. We answered the phone and he was crying on the other end. He said, ‘Why does this keep happening to me?'” John told UWBadgers.com. All his parents could do was try to be strong for their son and support him through the rehab process. As for Watt, he didn’t want this to derail his football career.
“It got pretty frustrating,” he told UWBadgers.com. “But I wasn’t going to come back with a negative attitude. I kept positive. My family played a big role in keeping me up and supporting me and the training staff here is amazing. Now, I’m 100 percent and ready to go.”
3. He Switched to Outside Linebacker After Playing Tight End in High School
Watt was recruited by the Badgers as a tight end, but after a season of redshirting and his injuries, he switched to outside linebacker. Now that he’s on the defensive side of the ball, he’s compared to his older brother even more. At first, Watt didn’t think much of coach Paul Chryst’s suggestion that he switch positions. But he warmed up to the idea after talking with his family and watching old videos of his brother in action.
“I just fell in love with the mentality,” Watt told the Wisconsin State Journal. “Getting after the ball, making plays. I came back the next day and told Coach Chryst, ‘Let’s do it.’ It’s been a heck of a year since then.”
After just 14 months in the position, he became the Badgers’ defensive star. He was the first Badgers player to twin the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week Award since 2004.
“It’s not that he’s picked it up faster or slower than I thought,” Chryst told the State Journal. “T.J.’s a really good football player. He’s an unbelievable worker, and he’s smart. I think he loves the game. How do you put a timetable on that development? It’s been fun to see him grow and develop and last year have success and then build off of that.”
Watt finished his college career with 41 solo tackles, one interception for a touchdown, one fulmble recovery and two forced fumbles.
4. Watt Earned an Endorsement From Packers Star Clay Matthews
Watt hasn’t just earned praise from J.J. He also has an endorsement from Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews.
“I know some of the mock draft boards have him potentially coming here, which would be great, if he’s even half the player that his brother is,” Matthews told ESPN in April. “I’m sure there’s pressure on him. But I’m sure if he’s anything like his brother, he’ll have a drive and work ethic that can’t be matched.”
Matthews, whose father and uncle played in the NFL, added that Watt just wants his own shot at proving himself at the NFL level.
“I think that’s really driven by the fact that I always wanted to be more successful than just having the last name Matthews. But, yeah, obviously everyone’s going to expect big things out of him with how well J.J. has been playing in this league. I think he just wants his shot,” Matthews told ESPN.
The Packers have the 29th pick in the first round, since the team reached the NFC Championship last season. However, they passed on Watt and he was drafted by the Steelers.
5. J.J. Thinks He’s a Better Player Than He Was at This Point in His Career
Unsurprisingly, J.J. Watt has nothing but good things to say about his brother. “He’s so similar to me but he’s farther along than I was at that point in the process,” Watt told HoustonTexans.com.
J.J. made similar comments in an interview with The Ringer.
“He’s a better player than I was at the same point in our careers,” J.J. told The Ringer. “The guy’s only played the position for 18 months or whatever it is. And for him to have the innate abilities that he has, a nose for the ball and the way that he can rush the passer with no true experience or a ton of time being coached at it … he just picked it up.”
There’s still competitiveness between the brothers. “There’s something about when J.J. and I are competing,” Watt told The Ringer. “It’s, ‘Screw you. I’m better than you, how does it feel?’”
Their parents also pushed them to be the best.
“Growing up, they wanted us to go out and do the best that we could, and if we weren’t doing our best, they’d let us know what we did wrong and push us,” Derek Watt told UWBadgers.com. “It was about giving your best every day, hard work and just being you. Have fun and do everything all-out.”
“They drove us to every event and fed us after everything (no small feat considering J.J.’s appetite),” Watt said of his parents in 2015. “They’ve never really pushed us too hard. It was always our decision to play sports. But they’ve been our No. 1 supporters from Day One.”