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Saturday, October 5, 2013
Throwback Watt all about the game

By Ashley Fox
ESPN.com

It was a classic J.J. Watt play.

On Seattle's second drive of the game last Sunday, Watt was entangled with guard J.R. Sweezy near the Seahawks' 2-yard line. Marshawn Lynch broke one tackle, then another, then another as he scampered up field.

Houston safety Danieal Manning couldn't bring Lynch down. Neither could nose tackle Earl Mitchell nor linebacker Joe Mays. Who did? After disengaging from Sweezy and running more than 40 yards in pursuit, Watt did.

No defensive player in the National Football League hunts the football the way Watt does. No defender makes more plays. Few players take the game as personally as Watt does.

Watt is the rare commodity: A modern-era player who cares more about what he can do for his team and the NFL than what they can do for him.

Too often today, players care more about their status and their stardom than they do about the game. It is more about the paycheck, the cars, the jewelry, the clubs, the women. It is about being somebody, a name, a face, a celebrity, a star. It is less about doing a job, respecting the craft, attending to details and doing everything necessary from Monday to Sunday to win a game.

Some players say they love the game, but in reality they love what the game can do for them. They love that they can go out, draw attention and be somebody.

That's certainly not the case with Watt.

It has been evident during his brief tenure in the league. Watt is just 24 years old. The 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Wisconsin, Watt turned in a monster sophomore campaign in 2012, earning his first selection to the All-Pro team as well as Defensive Player of the Year honors. He needs a half sack against San Francisco Sunday night to reach 30 for his career.

Watt
In just his third year in the NFL, J.J. Watt has emerged as one of the most disruptive defensive forces in the league.

Watt understandably cares about his image. He understands that doing charity work and being active in the Houston community helps endear him to fans. He wants to be liked and respected, both inside the Texans facility and outside. It meant something to Watt that linebacker Brian Cushing, the Texans veteran leader on defense, told ESPN's John Clayton this summer that Watt could become the greatest defensive player ever to play in the NFL.

But more than anything, Watt cares about the game, his teammates, the franchise for which he works -- and his craft. His pursuit of Lynch was the perfect example.

Another was his reaction to Houston's 23-20 overtime loss to the Seahawks. Houston dominated in the first half. The defense allowed 88 yards of offense – 43 of which came on the one Lynch play. It  gave up just four first downs and allowed Seattle zero third-down conversions and just three points.

Houston's offense, meanwhile, gained 324 yards, made 17 first downs and took a 20-3 lead into halftime. In the fourth quarter, with Cushing out with a concussion, the proverbial wheels fell off. The defense gave up a 14-play, 98-yard touchdown drive. Houston quarterback Matt Schaub threw a horrible interception that Richard Sherman returned for a touchdown. In overtime, Seattle scored on its second possession to steal a win at Reliant Stadium that should have been the Texans'.

Bruised and bloodied from a wicked gash across his nose that required six stitches to close, Watt stood at his locker 30 minutes after the loss. He took about a dozen questions. Grinding his molars and speaking in short, deliberate sentences, Watt seethed about the loss.

"We're going to get it corrected," Watt said. "Whatever we have to do, however long we have to stay, whatever kind of meetings we have to do, whatever kind of practices we have to do, we're going to get it fixed. I can promise you that."

Asked if he was angry, Watt said: "Every loss makes me angry. I can't freaking stand losing."

Asked if he had talked to Cushing, Watt said: "I haven't seen him. I've been trying to get my face fixed."

Asked about the injury, which occurred after Watt leveled Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, Watt said: "I hit people for a living."

Asked if this was the more difficult of the two losses the Texans have suffered this season, Watt said: "I'm pissed off. This sucks. Nobody likes to lose, especially like this in your own building. This isn't fun, man. I'm sick of it after one loss. I can't … that's all I'll say."

It is rare to see a player so angry after a game. It is rare to see a player take a loss so personally. That's what Watt did. It was genuine. It was heartfelt. And it was real.

Watt cares deeply. That comes from within. He is a freakishly talented athlete, yes, but what makes Watt unique and special is his inner drive to put his team before himself.