On Thursday night Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt announced that he is engaged to be married to aspiring professional soccer player Dani Rhodes. The notice came via Twitter and Instagram and prompted countless congratulatory messages, many from teammates and former Steelers teammates.
Dani Rhodes Starred at the University of Wisconsin
Rhodes starred as a forward for the Wisconsin Badgers soccer team between 2016-19, and capped off her college career by scoring 13 goals in 22 games as a senior, leading to Big Ten Forward of the Year and Second-Team All-America honors.
Though she went unselected in the 2020 National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) draft, she did catch on with the Chicago Red Stars and made her first professional appearance against the Washington Spirit last September.
This year she was one of four non-roster invitees to the Red Stars’ preseason camp, joining a group that included Julie Ertz and Mallory Pugh, who play for the U.S. Women’s National Team.
The Chicago Red Stars’ first-team also includes Kealia Watt, who married T.J.’s older brother J.J. Watt in 2020. Like Ertz and Pugh, Kealia Watt has experience with the U.S. Women’s National Team. In fact, she scored in her first USWNT appearance (against Switzerland) back in October 2016.
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T.J. Watt is in Line for a Massive Contract Extension
Meanwhile, the Steelers are expected to attempt to sign T.J. Watt—the team’s first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin—to a long-term contract extension sometime before the start of the regular season. For now, Watt is scheduled to play for $10,089,000 in 2021, the amount of the fifth-year option the Steelers picked up in April of last year.
Earlier this year, Steelers team president Art Rooney II said the organization is “certainly going to try” to sign the 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year runner-up to an extension, an acknowledgment that it won’t be an easy negotiation. The deal is expected to reach record-breaking heights for a defensive player and figures to be more lucrative than the five-year, $125 million deal given to Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett last summer. Watt’s contract situation figures to remain a storyline through training camp and the preseason, though T.J. probably won’t provide much insight into any developments, at least if his most recent media appearance is any indication.
This year Watt hopes to continue to reach new heights in terms of pass rushing excellence. If he records 13 or more sacks this season he would become one of only nine players in NFL history to get 13+ sacks four times, and he would join late Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White as the only player to do it four years in a row.
He will also be aiming to help the Steelers tie an NFL record in 2021, which he and his defensive teammates will do if they can get 50 or more sacks for the fifth consecutive season, something no NFL club has done since the 1980s. Last year the Steelers set a new franchise record by getting 50+ sacks in a fourth consecutive season. Watt, of course, led the way with a career high 15 sacks, bringing his four-year total to 49.5 (in 62 games).
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