By DAVID BRANDT (AP Sports Writer)
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — J.J. Watt could be a terrifying presence on a football field, hunting opposing quarterbacks with unparalleled ferocity, particularly during the early 2010s with the Houston Texans.
But the 6-foot-5, 288-pounder also could be a joyful fan favorite, playing catch on the sideline with young fans in the stands before games.
Now one of the best defensive players in NFL history looks like he’s ready to call it a career.
Watt — a three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year — indicated Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season, posting pictures of his wife and baby on social media while writing: “Koa’s first ever NFL game. My last ever NFL home game. My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.”
The Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman and his wife, Kealia, became parents in October. Koa is the name of their son.
Watt, 33, was among the premier defensive players in the NFL during the early 2010s with the Houston Texans. The former Wisconsin standout was a first-round pick in 2011 and was dominant from 2012 to 2015, finishing that four-year stretch with 69 sacks, to earn all three of his AP Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Watt was solid during his rookie season but became a star in 2012, with a stunning 20 1/2 sacks and 39 tackles for a loss. His production dipped slightly in 2013 before two more monster seasons. He had 20 1/2 sacks in 2014 and 17 1/2 in 2015.
His production dipped during the later half of his career, largely due to injuries. He missed big chunks of time in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2021 but has had a bit of a late-career revival with the Cardinals — his 9 1/2 sacks this season are his most since 2018.
He also was active with off-the-field endeavors, helping to raise millions of dollars for those affected by Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area in 2017.
Watt spent his first 10 seasons with the Texans and the past two with the Cardinals. He has played some of his best football with the Cardinals over the past few weeks, with three sacks against the Broncos and two tackles for a loss on Christmas against the Buccaneers.
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