TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman JJ Watt announced in a tweet Tuesday morning that he will retire after this season.
“Koa’s first ever NFL game. My last ever NFL home game. My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure,” he tweeted along with a picture of him holding son Koa and standing next to wife Kealia at Sunday night’s game between the Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Koa’s first ever NFL game.
My last ever NFL home game.
My heart is filled with nothing but love and gratitude. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) December 27, 2022
Watt’s 12-year career has two games left, both road trips, to the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
He’ll walk away as one of the most dominant defensive players of his generation and a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer. Watt is one of three players to be named the Defensive Player of the Year three times, joining Aaron Donald and Lawrence Taylor.
All three of those awards came when he played for the Houston Texans (2012, 2014 and 2015), the franchise that selected him 11th overall in 2011 out of Wisconsin.
Watt will finish his career with the Cardinals, having signed with them before the 2021 season after spending 10 seasons with the Texans. He is one of three Watt brothers to play in the NFL.
Koa, Watt’s first child, was born in October. In late September, Watt had the rhythm of his own heart reset after experiencing atrial fibrillation, then played days later.
Watt has 111.5 sacks (26th on the NFL’s career list), a statistic that has officially been tracked since 1982. He is also the only player to record 20-plus sacks in multiple seasons (2012, 2014).
Since Watt was drafted in 2011, there are only three other players — Von Miller, Cameron Jordan and Chandler Jones — who have more sacks than him. He is first in batted passes, second in fumble recoveries and tied for third in forced fumbles during that time.
Watt also has 28 games with at least two sacks, five more than anyone else since 2011, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
He’s one of four players to have 100 career sacks and five touchdowns. Watt also had four seasons with at least 15 sacks since 1982, second only to his childhood idol, Hall of Famer Reggie White, who had five.
Watt — who is the career sack leader for the Texans with 101, almost twice as many sacks as the next closest on the franchise’s career list — is still playing at a high level at 33 years old.
Among the 48 players with at least 10 pass breakups this season, Watt leads all of them with 28 pressures and is tied with Daron Payne for most sacks with 9.5.
Watt’s impact, however, went beyond the field.
His foundation has raised $6.7 million since it was started in 2010, when he was still in college. His initial goal was to raise $100,000, he said recently on Twitter.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Watt’s foundation raised more than $37 million to distribute to victims. His initial goal for that was $200,000.