After 12 Hall of Fame-worthy seasons, Arizona Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt played his final NFL game, as he walked off the field at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco to a standing ovation in emotional fashion.
But, as HBO’s “Hard Knocks” teased ahead of their final in-season episode with the Cardinals, Watt’s water works had been running throughout the week.
During a defense meeting, Arizona’s coordinator on that side of the ball, Vance Joseph, shared a very special video the team put together for Watt.
And when his brother, fellow Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, came on the screen, Watt immediately started to tear up.
Caution: You may want to get some tissues out for this one.
“Brother, J.J., I just want to say congratulations on retirement,” T.J. Watt said. “You and your resiliency throughout all the ups and downs. You ending up in the NFL and you being Defensive Player of the Year and you having all the success that you had, showed me that it’s possible.”
From there, a slew of players, including Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, and two future Hall of Famers in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, all said their congratulations to Watt on an amazing season.
“Man, you were a pain in my a—for a long time. It was an honor to share the field with you,” Brady said.
When Watt’s other brother, Derek, came on screen with his two nephews, the emotions ran high yet again.
“Congrats on your retirement and Hall of Fame career, J.J. It’s been so special having a front row seat to it all and couldn’t be more proud of you. Love you, bro,” he said.
Finally, if that wasn’t enough for Watt to handle, his parents and wife were the final ones to share their piece of the journey.
“J.J., before you were born, we had really big dreams for you and high hopes, but, boy, you kind of blew those out of the water on your own,” his mother, Connie, said. “We are so happy for you. It’s been just a complete joy watching you all through the years.”
John Watt, J.J.’s father, added: “We got to be a big part of it for your first journey back in the day when I was your coach. And it’s been a pleasure to watch you ever since. Kind of sad to see it come to your last game, but you have so many great things ahead of you that I’m looking forward to what the future brings for you, Kealia, and Koa.”
“It has been such an honor to watch you work you’re a—off these past years and do whatever you needed to do to be the best,” Kealia Watt said while holding their newbron son, Koa. “You’ve been so generous and kind and loving to everybody around you, and you never forgot who you are.
“I know Koa will be so proud to be your son.”
In 151 regular season games over his career, Watt finishes with 114.5 sacks, 586 combined tackles (195 for loss), 27 forced fumbles and many more stats and accolades, including five All-Pro and five Pro Bowl selections.
Watt was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, and the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner.