Yes, you read that right. This was no ordinary Texans game. It wasn’t even football.
On Saturday, the J.J. Watt Charity foundation held the fourth annual J.J. Watt Charity Classic, a softball game that attracted 30,000 fans and raised $1.6 million for middle school athletes around the country. The team rosters were made up of the defensive and offensive Texans players competing on opposing teams.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush threw out the first pitch. Former Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox legend Roger Clemens coached the defense, which included Watt, along with 12 other players from Houston’s defensive line.
The offense’s roster included new Texans starting quarterback Brock Osweiler, who played while wearing a cowboy hat. University of Houston football coach Tom Herman coached Osweiler and 14 of his offensive teammates.
At the press conference before the game, Watt talked about why he started the annual charity game. “I wanted something that everybody would enjoy, that the players would truly enjoy and look forward to,” Watt said. “I wanted something that the fans would see the players outside of their element and having fun.”
J.J. Watt lives by the phrase dream big and work hard. He was a two-star recruit coming out of high school. Now, he’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Watt’s road to becoming a top defensive player wasn’t easy, but he did have the family support that he needed. He also had uniforms and equipment. Not every kid does.
The mission of the foundation is to provide after-school athletic opportunities for middle-school aged children. According to the foundation, “By getting involved in athletics, students learn the character traits of accountability, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and perseverance in a safe and supervised environment with their peers.”
Watt didn’t imagine that the charity would be where it is now when he first started it, along with his mom, Connie, and a childhood friend. “We said, ‘Let's get ambitious here. What if we raised $100 grand in three years? That would be awesome,’” Watt said. “Nearly five years into it, we're going to go well over $3 million. It's mind-blowing. We've donated so much. It's hard to fathom the support we've gotten from Houston, from America, from everywhere. We're just very thankful for that.”
The foundation has donated to middle school athletics programs in more than 21 states. Said Watt, “It's really cool for me to see my teammates so excited, to see the fans interact with my teammates, and to see the amount of money raised for kids. I think it's incredible.”
Photographs: Justin J Watt Foundation (2)