Watt is driven to be the best

On Saturday night, during the NFL Honors show, the 2020 NFL Defensive Player of the Year will be announced.

And linebacker T.J. Watt is one of the top candidates for the award.

It's an award he is more than familiar with, attending the NFL Honors show four times, three to watch his brother, Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt win the award, and last year when he was in the conversation for the award himself.

"I have been to that award show, three to four times," said T.J. Watt. "I tell people every time I went, I would always leave more motivated than when I walked in the building. That is going from when I was in high school and (J.J.) won the first award and in college.

"Even last year when I didn't win the award, it's so special to be surrounded by your peers who are the elite of the elite in the National Football League. It's special company to be around. Just to be up for the award…it's just really cool to be in that conversation."

Watt has had conversations about the award with his brother, who won the award in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

"We've had plenty of conversations about it," said J.J. Watt, in an exclusive interview. "We obviously talk very frequently, but we have spoken about those goals many times. After the awards he has talked about the motivation he has gotten from them. It's easy for people to talk about the motivation they get, or to let that motivation linger for a day or a week, but he truly has taken that to heart and continued to work day in and day out, year after year, to continue to improve himself and to put himself on that level and he has done an incredible job of that."


Like J.J. said, it's a word that is thrown out there and people talk about. But nobody would ever question T.J.'s motivation. It's to be the best at what he does, while at the same time make those around him better and help his team succeed. You see it in his work ethic, whether he is on the practice field, in the weight room, or on game day. He has a drive, a passion for what he does that he pours his heart and soul into and it's visible to anyone that knows him.

"T.J. is visiting from another planet, to be quite honest with you," said Coach Mike Tomlin during the 2020 season. "He has freakishly unique talent coupled with freakishly unique work habits and mindset, and it produces what you guys witness every week, which in my opinion, is Defensive Player of the Year quality."

When told of Tomlin's comment, J.J. joked that he wasn't surprised by the 'Visiting from another planet' comment.

"We rode together on our way here," laughed J.J.

In all seriousness, though, he knows T.J. works his tail off, something that was expected of the three Watt brothers, J.J., Steelers fullback Derek Watt, and T.J., by their parents, Connie and John Watt.

"He has the same work habits that my parents instilled in Derek and I. He has incredible work habits," said J.J. "He wants to improve and get better. He is always asking questions and he is always putting in the time in the weight room, running, on the field. He has an extreme thirst for improvement. To me that is a sign of greatness when you are never complacent. Complacency kills progress and T.J.'s never complacent."

Watt's 2020 statistics show he isn't complacent. Not by a long shot.

Watt, who was selected as the AFC Defensive Player of the Year by the 101 Awards, first-team Associated Press All-Pro and voted to the Pro Bowl, led the NFL in sacks with a career-high 15, quarterback hits with 41 and tackles for a loss with 23, while adding 53 tackles, 43 of them solo stops, seven pass defenses, two forced fumbles and an interception.

"He was incredible," said J.J. "He led the league in sacks. He led the league in tackles for a loss. He led the league in quarterback hits. He can drop back in coverage and can help his team that way. He is just a truly disruptive player who makes game-changing plays for his team and has done an incredible job. I truly believe he is deserving of Defensive Player of the Year.

"I believe that he was deserving of it last year as well. He had an incredible year last year as well. But I believe that T.J. has even stepped up his game more this year. He was even more disruptive. Every single play he can make a play that changes the game and that's the definition to me of a guy who deserves Defensive Player of the Year."

Watt, the team's No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is the first player in Steelers history with 14 plus sacks in multiple seasons, doing so in 2019 and 2020. Watt was solid all season, being named AFC Defensive Player of the Month twice, in September and November.

"His talents are just a part of the equation," said Tomlin. "His hyper-focus, his attention to detail, his awareness I think all add up to big playmaking ability and splash plays for us."

And hopefully, it all adds up to Watt winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on Saturday night.

"T.J. deserves every ounce of praise and credit that he gets," said J.J. "I have done whatever I possibly can to help him along the way in terms of answering questions and trying to provide a game plan, a blueprint. But T.J. has put in the time, the effort and the studying and he deserves every ounce of credit he gets. I don't want him to get any less credit than he deserves because I am his brother and did it before him. I want him to stand on his own and reap what he has sown.

"I would be extremely proud (if he wins the award). It would be a very proud moment for me. I know it would be the first of hopefully many."

And then, with a little brotherly love and fun, he added.

"And I would also be proud to know that I still have two more than him," joked J.J.