Texans defensive end J.J. Watt took an unusual route to the NFL. Originally from Pewaukee, Wis., Watt played his freshman season at Central Michigan, playing in 14 games -- as a tight end, catching eight passes.
Watt left Central Michigan and paid his own way to go to Wisconsin, where he took a part-time job at Pizza Hut delivering pizzas to pay for his dream of playing for the Badgers. He asked for a look at defensive end during a redshirt season, and the coaches gave him a shot. The results were spectacular.
In 2010, he logged 59 tackles and seven sacks on the way to a Big Ten title. After forgoing his senior season, the 23-year-old was drafted 11th overall by the Houston Texans in the 2011 NFL draft. In his rookie season, Watt helped the Texans reach their first-ever playoff game, in which he put his old tight end skills to use, intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown.
Q: What’s the biggest misconception about you?
A: People think that football players in general aren’t the smartest guys, that we just run our heads together. But there’s a lot more to us off the field.
Who would you say is the most media-savvy athlete?
Tim Tebow does a heck of a job. He gets so much attention, and he’s not even promoting himself.
With which pro athlete would you never want to trade places?
Probably Tebow. He gets so much scrutiny. I like to be able to go to a restaurant with my family and be left alone, but he probably can’t do that.
If you were a talk show host, who would be your first guest?
Charlie Sheen. I’d be guaranteed viewers.
If you could go to dinner with one person, dead or alive, whom would it be?
Albert Einstein. He’s super smart but pretty out there too. I bet he has interesting views on the world and the way it works.
What’s one thing you always have with you?
My “Dream Big, Work Hard” wristband from my foundation.
Who would play you in your biopic?
I’ve been told Channing Tatum, but I don’t see that at all.
What’s the most embarrassing music you listen to?
Justin Bieber. But I’m not going to name songs.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
From my parents: Don’t be afraid to work hard for something you want.
What do you like best about your job?
I get to live every kid’s dream.
What do you hate about it?
Running into 350-pound men at full speed. But that’s also one of my favorite parts.
What's your idea of a perfect day?
Winning the Super Bowl and then eating and celebrating with my family.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Puppies. Golden retrievers.
What song is stuck in your head these days?
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem. That is always stuck in my head.
What’s your pregame meal?
An omelette, breakfast potatoes, a bagel, a waffle, water and orange juice. Even for a night game.
What place in the world do you most want to visit?
Ireland. My family traveled a lot growing up, but I’ve never been there.
What was the best gift you ever received?
I have a blown-up photo of the crowd rushing the field after Wisconsin beat Ohio State at home in 2010. That was amazing.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
What’s one thing you did in the past year or two that you never thought you would?
So many things: winning a Big Ten championship, playing in the Rose Bowl, being drafted in the first round, playing in the NFL, scoring a touchdown in the playoffs, buying a house.
What movie have you seen more than any other?
What talent do you wish you had?
I’d like to play a musical instrument: guitar or piano. I want to take lessons.
What is your hidden talent?
Hockey. Not many people know I played hockey from age 3 to 13. I was a center.
What’s your most prized possession?
It was my 2010 Big Ten championship ring. Now it’s the football from my interception touchdown in the playoffs.