Throughout J.J. Watt's career, he has cemented himself as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. He not only succeeded on the field, but also made his mark off the field with his charitable contributions.
Right after Christmas, Watt took to Twitter to announce he was hanging up the cleats after the season. So, before his final game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, the Arizona Cardinals surprised the future Hall of Fame pass rusher with a tear-jerking video compilation of congratulatory messages from family members, NFL players and coaches, and more.
we're not crying, you're crying— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 10, 2023
via @AZCardinals pic.twitter.com/DXVn6634tQ
You can watch the full video above, but here are some of the messages Watt received:
"Brother, I just wanted to say congratulations on retirement," said T.J. Watt, J.J.'s brother and Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro linebacker, to begin the video. "You and your resiliency throughout all the ups and downs. You ending up in the NFL and you being a Defensive Player of the Year and you having all the success that you had, showed me that it's possible."
JJ's other brother, Steelers fullback Derek Watt, also made an appearance, as did his parents, Connie and John, and his wife, Kealia, who was holding their two-and-a-half-month son, Koa.
"Congrats on your retirement and your Hall of Fame career," Derek said. "It's been so special having a front row seat to it all and I couldn't be more proud of you. Love you, bro."
In addition to his family, NFL players past and present also had some kind words for Watt.
"Congratulations, buddy. See you in Canton." said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"Congratulations on your incredible football career." added Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
"Man, you were a big pain in my ass for a long time," followed future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. "It was an honor to share the field with you."
Watt was a five-time first-team All-Pro and is 24th all-time in sacks with 114.5. He is a five-time Pro Bowler, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2017.
And even after 12 NFL seasons, Watt showed Sunday that he could still dominate. He recorded two sacks in his final game, giving him 12.5 for the season -- the second-most by a player in his final year in league history (Jamir Miller had 13.0 for the 2001 Browns).
"I said I wanted to go out playing good ball and I'm playing good ball," Watt said after the Week 18 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. "I know I still can, I'm just choosing not to, that's all."
Watt's legacy will live on far past the span of his career, and the outpouring of support and congratulations show just what an impact he had on the NFL community.