Former Houston Texans and current Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt has announced he will retire following the current NFL season.
Watt, 33, announced his decision in a Tuesday morning tweet featuring pictures of himself on the field with his family after the Cardinals’ Sunday night home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Koa’s first-ever NFL game. My last ever NFL home game,” Watt’s caption read. “My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.”
His brothers, TJ and Derek, also play in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers. TJ, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was one of the first NFL players to react to his brother’s announcement with a crying GIF.
Many others have since tweeted their appreciation for his career, including the Houston Texans; Sunday Night Football commentator and former NFL wide receiver Cris Collinsworth; and former NFL defensive back, fellow Wisconsin alumnus, and Vice President of the NFL Players’ Association Troy Vincent.
“Nothing but love and respect for one of the best to ever do it in H-Town,” the Texans wrote on Twitter. “We can’t wait to celebrate your legacy soon.”
J.J. Watt began his college career as a tight end at Central Michigan University. He later transferred and walked on to the University of Wisconsin football team, moving to the other side of the ball and becoming one of the most menacing defensive players in the country.
Watt spent the first 10 years of his career with the Texans, who drafted him 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.
During his time in Houston, Watt became the third player to be named Defensive Player of the Year three times, made five Pro Bowls, won the Walter Payton Man of the Year award for organizing local relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey, and became the first NFL player to have multiple seasons with at least 20 sacks.
Like many of his recent seasons, his first year in Arizona was marred by injuries, and he only played in seven games. This year, he has seemed much more like his former self, with 33 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks through 15 games.
Watt currently ranks 26th on the NFL’s all-time sacks list (fourth among active players) and is considered a lock as a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
With a 4-11 record, Arizona has been eliminated from playoff contention, meaning Watt has just two games remaining in his NFL career. His final game will be on January 8, 2023, against the San Francisco 49ers.