Once upon a time, J.J. Watt seemed truly invincible.
Then the 2015 season happened. In a span of months, Watt suffered a broken hand, a staph infection, two torn abdominal muscles, three torn adductor muscles and two herniated discs. He had multiple surgeries over the off-season, but he ended up re-herniating a disc three games into the current season. He’s been sidelined ever since and is expected to miss the remainder of the 2016 season.
In an essay recently published in The Player’s Tribune, Watt explains how it feels to be missing a football season for the first time in 18 years. It’s an excellent read for football players and fans alike, as Watt explains what it is about the game that he loves so much:
In that moment, I had a realization. I was actually overwhelmed by it. Football has been everything to me since I was 10 years old. For the past few months, all of that has been taken away. It’s been like a mini-retirement. And I realized that the money, the fame, the awards, the people talking about me on TV, none of that matters. None of those things have any effect on why I love this game and why I give everything I have to it. Don’t get me wrong, those things are nice, and I appreciate how fortunate I am to make the kind of money I do and experience the things I get to experience, but that’s not what I crave. What I crave is that feeling of being completely and entirely spent. When you walk off the field at the end of a two-a-day in the middle of August drenched in sweat, completely exhausted. When you finish a 6 a.m. workout before school and you’re fighting to keep your eyes open in first period. When you sit around the bonfire after the game with your boys, and your body has nothing left. You’re almost numb. And you know you laid it all on the line. That’s what I miss. It’s the pep rallies. It’s the music blasting on the drive to the game. It’s that first fall chill in the air. . . Over the last year, I’ve been through some dark times, and my body was beat up more than most people probably realize. But I’ve learned that a life without adversity is a boring life to live. I’ve experienced the highs, and I’ve experienced the lows, and both are better than living in the middle. The kid in me is back. Am I done? Hell no. I’m just getting started.
There’s no doubt it’s been a tough year for Watt. In July, he revealed to STACK that his rehab from groin surgery was filled with adversity. “It was some of the most frustrating days of my life because you feel helpless,” he said. “It created a new mountain for me to climb.”
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Though Watt did everything he could to play this season, his body simply needed a break. Perhaps his mind did, too. But with Watt sounding like he’ll be re-energized and healthy heading into the 2017 season, the invincible, unblockable monster should be back better than ever.