Donned in a red Arizona Cardinals shirt as he took the podium, J.J. Watt publicly spoke for the first time as a member of the bird gang on Tuesday afternoon.
A three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a five-time Pro Bowler, the 31-year-old Watt had other options, as NFL Insider Peter King recently noted in an interview with Brad Cesmat.
Nevertheless, Watt elaborated on what enticed him to the Valley of the Sun when there were other promising offers on the table as a highly-desired player who was on the market for a new team.
“In the NFL it’s always a difficult decision when you are deciding on where to play,” Watt said. “I’m thankful to all the teams that showed interest and put offers out there and wanted to bring me to their team. At the end of the day, Arizona, with everything going on here and the amount of talent that they have and the opportunity that sits in front of them, I’m very excited to be here and help develop and grow and take this thing to the next level.”
Yesterday, Watt blew up social media when he sent out his picture on Twitter of him in a Cardinals shirt during a workout. He took the power of announcing his next destination into his own hands.
source: me. pic.twitter.com/1Y6okQBUy5
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) March 1, 2021
During his introductory press conference on Wednesday, he also went into detail about the funny back story of the Cardinals shirt and his announcement.
Throughout much of his free agency journey, Watt and his agent had kept quiet about what teams they were looking at. With Watt’s resume, many franchises continued to reach out to the standout defensive end. When it got down to his final five teams, Watt ordered a shirt of each team in preparation for his announcement.
However, as a precautionary measure, he was worried about the shipping company seeing his name and the logo of an NFL team going to his front door on a package. He instead got a family friend to carry out the order. With the final five in place, Arizona was his final decision.
“The whole process, we kept it very quiet on our side from who was involved to what was involved, to everything,” Watt said. “…We were just sitting there and being quiet and at the very end when I decided that Arizona was the place, we realized how truly quiet it had been on that front. I said I think I’m going to announce it on my own and take control of your own narrative as a player.”
Now an Arizona Cardinal, Watt will don his signature 99 at State Farm Stadium. Although the jersey number is retired in honor of former Chicago Cardinal Marshall Goldberg, on Tuesday morning, Watt got the blessing of Goldberg’s daughter to officially don the number.
It has been one of the many ways that the star defensive lineman has been welcomed to the Valley. He also had recruiting pitches from DeAndre Hopkins and Chandler Jones, as Jones and Watt look to make their presence felt as a dynamic duo in the Cardinals front seven.
“I’m glad I don’t have to go through the headache of blocking that. That’s what goes through my mind,” Watt said of Jones. “I’m looking forward to playing with Chandler. He’s an incredible player, an incredible pass-rusher, and I can’t wait to get out there and work with him and just put in the work to be on the practice field.”
As for off the field endeavors, Watt was highly involved in community outreach while in Houston and will likely forever be a fan favorite. Now with the Cardinals, he looks to get involved with the Pat Tillman Foundation and has a project in the works over the coming months.
It’s been a seamless transition for Watt over the last 24 hours, but the real work will begin when training camp starts in the next few months and when the lights are on next fall.
In a loaded NFC West Division, the Cardinals are going to have their hands full. Watt will look to elevate Arizona’s defense and possibly bring them into playoff contention. He likes the feel of his new home.
“I’ve gotten that vibe over the last 24 hours. The energy is palpable, you can feel it,” Watt said of his move to Arizona. “There’s definitely an excitement and there’s an energy in the air and I’m excited to be a part of that and I’m excited to cultivate and help that energy only get bigger.”