JJ Watt's hometown of Pewaukee reacts to retirement announcement
Watt hinted at retirement on Tuesday in a tweet revealing it was his last NFL home game ever.
"I always have memories of him in the cafeteria with two lunches at once, kind of like pancaked on top of each other because he had to eat like 20 pounds per meal, probably," Kailan Bay, who went to high school with JJ Watt, said.
How much he ate at lunch during his time at Pewaukee High is up for debate, but his impact on and off the field is not. Watt is a three-time NFL defensive player of the year and is the Houston Texans' all-time leader in sacks. Though he went on to be very successful, considered one of the best at his position ever, Watt never forgot about his roots.
"My mom talks about him just jogging by the house, and I like to see he keeps it old school and does normal stuff, and that he's not too high and mighty to hang out in little Pewaukee and do the simple things," Bay said.
Aside from his triumphs on the field, Watt has also dedicated a lot of time to giving back. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Watt and the Justin J Watt Foundation got to work, raising money for relief efforts. In 2018, the NFL reported the foundation had raised over $41.6 million that went toward rebuilding homes and child care centers, providing meals and physical and mental health care.
The foundation also focuses its efforts on helping children across the country by providing help to middle schools with little-to-no funding for after-school athletic programs. To date, the foundation has donated over $6.8 million.
Here in Wisconsin, districts like Milwaukee Public Schools and Lumin Schools have benefited from the foundation.
"He does so much for the community. He gives back so much. It's wonderful that he's such a great guy," Pewaukee resident Brad Shultis said.
Watt's alma mater UW-Madison, where he played after leaving Central Michigan University, tweeted about his retirement.
The NFL even changed its Twitter header to congratulate the pride of Pewaukee.
"JJ Watt is such an awesome player, you know," Shultis said. "I'm happy that he had a good career, and I hope he has a good time in retirement."
After 12 seasons in the NFL, Watt has two more games before he hangs up his jersey.