Steelers star T.J. Watt gets his first DPOY – Pittsburgh Steelers blog

T.J. Watt wasn’t quite sure what was going on when his brother J.J.On Thursday, he was removed from the YouTube Theater in Los Angeles because of a problem regarding his ticket.

The oldest Watt brother was supposed be sitting in front of the other Watt clan members at the NFL Honors ceremony. But he disappeared suddenly.

He returned on stage with Katy Perry a few moments later to present the first award: Defensive Player Of The Year.

Even then, the reality of what was about to happen didn’t sink in for T.J.

As the pair read off the finalists for the NFL’s top defensive honor, the Pittsburgh SteelersStar edge rusher held his breath. He’d been there before, a finalist two other times, only to finish outside of the top spot. A year ago, he was told Aaron Donald’s name called over his, despite an NFL-best 15 sacks.

But this time it was different. His brother touched the Microsoft Surface Tablet, and smiled as the name was illuminated in front him. Then, he looked up and made eye contact with his youngest brother and announced him as the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year.

“I've been at that award show where I thought I had a really good chance of getting my name called, and you have the butterflies, like, okay, this could be happening,” T.J. told ESPN. “And obviously, it didn't sometimes. So just all the way up until my name was called, that was when I finally could exhale and breathe and then have to re-hold my breath to give a speech again.”

J.J. greeted his brother on stage with a giant embrace, calming T.J.’s nerves.

“Me and him both know all the work that's gone into it,” T.J. said. “I've seen him get that award three times, and to be able to be up there and have that award myself, it was a very surreal moment. Although I am not a great public speaker, that hug definitely helped calm my nerves and made me feel more confident. Which is basically the essence of our relationship.”

T.J. was inspired by the success of his elder brother Watt. And with T.J.’s first defensive player of the year award, he’s starting to catch up to some of J.J.’s hardware. After setting the single-season mark with 22.5 sacks for Michael Strahan, he is also making his way to the record book.

“I feel like I'm just about to be entering the prime of my career,” T.J. said. “…I just want to continue to be that guy that the other team has to account for and continue to grow my leadership role with the team and try to be as consistent as possible.

“That's the hardest thing about the NFL is anybody can have a great game at this point. It's just about stringing together a band of great games.”

T.J. works out with J.J. in the offseason, and his middle brother Derek, who is a fullback for Steelers.

A year ago, the trio went viral on social media when they finished up one of their workouts in rural Wisconsin with an ice bath in a frozen lake and a mad dash to a portable sauna brought up by one of J.J.’s former teammates, Brian Peters.

“The actual water wasn't much colder than a typical ice bath. However, once you were out of the water and started walking in the snow, you felt as though you were walking with needles under your feet. That was the worst part.”

This offseason, though, T.J. isn’t sure that he’ll be getting back in a frozen lake. And if he does, odds are he also won’t post it on social media. T.J. took part in a social media detox sponsored in part by Six Star Pro Nutrition. He and a handful of his teammates committed to being on their phones less, and it’s something T.J. still tries to maintain in the offseason.

“I think it's just one of those things that you just always pick up your phone, want to be doing something,” T.J. said. “It's just gotten strange to sit there and do nothing, but in all reality, it's more important to just sit there and have true conversations.”

He’s also using the extra time away from his phone to help his fiancee Dani Rhodes, a professional soccer player, plan their upcoming wedding, slated to take place this offseason.

After that, though, he’ll resume his round-the-clock training.

With the drama of contract negotiations over, this year will be more like the previous. T.J. did not participate in the team period during training camp while the sides worked out the details of the contract. He still performed individual reps. T.J. had to be there for the entire process.

“If anything, it was making me want to train harder,” T.J. said.

Just before the 2021 season-opener, T.J. signed a deal that made him the NFL’s highest paid defensive player. In turn, he proved his worth by tying Strahan’s single-season sack record despite missing nearly four games with injuries.

But that’s just a jumping off point for next season.

“I approach football very personally and I dedicate my life to being the best football player that I can possibly be, the best teammate that I can be,” T.J. said. “And I know that there's always gonna be room for improvement. I'm never gonna reach the levels that I want to, but I'm gonna give it all I can.”


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