HOUSTON — J.J. Watt couldn’t sleep on Monday night after agreeing to a six-year contract extension with the Houston Texans.
The star defensive end arrived at NRG Stadium about 3:30 a.m. and found the security code on the door had changed, keeping him locked out. A cleaning lady let him in and Watt went straight to the weight room.
“I thought they were pulling a joke on me,” Watt said Tuesday. “I’m not even on the team anymore.”
Not a chance.
Watt’s deal is reportedly worth $100 million, including a $10 million signing bonus and $51.8 million in guaranteed money overall. He’s now signed through the 2021 season.
“I hope the people of Houston don’t mind me sticking around for a little while longer because I happen to like it here quite a bit,” Watt said. “I’m really excited about this and I’m very, very fortunate. I promise to do everything in my power to work extremely hard and give everything that I have to prove that I’ve earned this.”
He certainly has so far.
The 25-year-old Watt was the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year after recording 20 1/2 sacks and batting down 16 passes. He has 74 tackles for loss, 36 1/2 sacks and 27 pass breakups since he joined the league as the 11th overall pick in 2011, and he leads the league in sacks (31) and swatted passes (21) in the past two seasons.
“We normally wouldn’t do this at this stage,” owner Bob McNair said about the timing of the signing. “We just felt that his performance had been so outstanding, his attitude so great, his work ethic is such a role model for everyone on our team that we felt that he deserves special consideration. That’s why we agreed to look at this situation.”
Watt talked to his parents after agreeing to the deal on Monday night. His mother asked if Watt felt any differently now that he had a new deal in place. Watt said he didn’t.
“Money doesn’t motivate me, greatness does,” he said. “I’m so fortunate that I don’t have to worry about the money, so I can focus on the greatness. At the end of the day, I want to play this game because I want to be the absolute best I can be.”
Watt can hardly believe the trajectory of his life from such humble beginnings in a small Midwestern town.
“I’m just a kid from Pewaukee, Wisconsin, you know, a small little town, who had big dreams and who worked extremely hard and had a great support system around him,” he said. “So only to do to this so early in my career, to have the team show the faith and appreciation that they have, that’s what I’m so grateful and I’m so thankful.”
Watt had two years left on his contract that was due to pay him $1.9 million this year and just under $7 million in 2015. He expressed his desire for a new contract last month as the Texans were practicing with the Denver Broncos. He never intended to hold out, though, preferring to focus on practice and left the negotiating to his agent, Tom Condon.
General manager Rick Smith and Condon didn’t have much to discuss beyond the money figures.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a negotiation where there was so much alignment with how we felt about the player,” Smith said. “You have to base your feeling on what the future looks like based on the past. That’s a pretty good predictor of what you will have and everything that we’ve seen from J.J. gives us every confidence that he will continue to work the way that he’s worked and continue to be as effective as a player that he’s been so far.”
Watt says his deal proves how well the combination of big dreams and hard work can pay off.
“Don’t ever let anybody tell you why you can’t be what you want to be,” he said. “Don’t ever let anybody crush your dreams. But your dreams don’t mean anything if you’re not willing to wake up and work for them. So you better be willing to do the second part. You better be willing to work hard, make sacrifices, be disciplined, do all these things that everybody talks about.”