- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Even on a trip to Ireland where he was largely anonymous, J.J. Watt connected with a fan. A tweeted picture led to an offer to serve as Watt's tour guide and, eventually, dinner at a home featuring a dinner menu of casserole provided by the guide’s mom.
When you’re young and coming off an NFL defensive player of the year season that made you your city’s most popular athlete, how do you deal with the fame?
Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle got close to Watt and answers that question in this piece.
One request for an autograph or a picture at a stop outside the house usually snowballs for Watt.
Once one person worked up the nerve, it emboldened others. As Watt walked outside, kids in school uniforms stopped him for autographs, which attracted adults, who attracted more adults. It's a relatively small crowd this time, and he didn't decline anyone. But often the crowd can get so big it takes an hour to get through.
"I think back to when I was a kid when I was growing up, if I would've met Reggie White or Brett Favre or anybody," Watt said. "And I think about how crazy that moment would've been for me and how I would've been freaking out, freaking out."
Watt only declined photo an autograph request if approached while at dinner with family or friends. And even then, children get through.
I know Watt well enough to know he’s still getting his work done.
The question is if the attention wears on him over time, and if, ultimately, he’ll go out less and less and people ask him for more and more.
Right now is the time to run into him as it is all still new and fresh. If you want to say hi, he’s going to give you a minute.
It’s the kind of connection that seems to grow increasingly rare.