To Houstonians, J.J. Watt will always feel like a part of the fabric of the city, and it’s not just because of what the three-time Defensive Player of the Year did on the field.
Watt raised over $37 million for a relief fund after Hurricane Harvey. He threw out first pitches before the Astros playoff games, and he sent surprises to military families.
But when Watt faces the team that drafted him on Sunday, he said it won’t be the emotional reunion some are predicting.
“There are so many guys I don’t know,” Watt told media in a conference call.
The Texans roster certainly feels completely new, as the franchise is clearly in rebuild mode, and General Manager Nick Caserio has a slew of veterans signed to one-year deals.
“So, it’s not like, I’m like, ‘I want to go beat my old team’ or ‘Oh, I can’t wait to face this guy,’ because it’s not the same team,” said Watt. “It’s not the same organization that I remember and that I was part of.”
Those roster changes and the general direction of the team are part of what prompted Watt to request a release from the Texans. When asked if he anticipated the roster turnover and the Texans’ lack of success, and if that contributed to his asking for a release, Watt simply replied “yeah.”
Perhaps if the game was in Houston at NRG Stadium with Bill O’Brien on the opposing sideline, it would mean more. Nearly the entire coaching staff is in its first year with Houston, and the quarterback won’t be Watt’s longtime teammate, Deshaun Watson.
“I mean you look at the roster and you look at the guys that are there, I mean it’s been so massively turned over that there’s only a handful of guys that are even there from last year that I played with.”
Watt, of course, did play with Deandre Hopkins in Houston. The former Texans have helped lift Arizona to an undefeated season.