After OTAs on Wednesday T.J. Watt talked about the role he wants to embrace this year, a role of a leader. In his third season he has been in the system long enough to understand what it takes and be someone younger players can go to for advice, while veterans respect him enough to listen and follow his lead.
But before he ever talked about it, he showed he already is a leader.
Despite the blazing heat and bright sunshine that gave no mercy, Watt gathered his fellow outside linebackers and stayed out on the field working together for a few more minutes after the OTA session ended. Not with the coaches, just the linebackers working to get better.
It was the perfect example of while Watt is hoping to develop into a leader, he actually is already there.
"Just trying to build that leadership role and be a guy the younger guys can look up to," said Watt. "Be a tone setter for the defense and the whole team. This time of year is really big. My rookie year I was really big on staying quiet and just working. My second year trying to prove myself, and I feel like I still haven't fully proven myself. I feel like through what I have done around here, everyone sees the work I do and I can get in a leadership role and have a voice on this defense."
And for him, it's not about that voice being a loud, boisterous one. Leadership is about many things, and he understands with the array of personalities on the team you have to be able to adapt.
"The biggest thing about being a leader is knowing who you are talking to at all times," said Watt. "Different guys take leadership differently. Being a guy that works hard, showing through example, then talking when the time is right. Not trying to over coach and be somebody I am not."
His love for what he does on the field, for the game, is something in itself that is contagious with other players. They see his passion, his desire to win, and they can't help but want to follow right along.
"I think the No. 1 thing that separates me from other people is I love doing this," said Watt. "There is no just talking. It's doing the work. I actually love what I do. I put my heart and soul into it. Football is always on my mind.
"I am trying to be the best that I can be, be the best teammate, make as many plays. All of that stuff starts here."
Taking on the leadership role this year is a lot easier too because he is now settled in his role on the field. Last year during OTAs Watt and Bud Dupree swapped sides at outside linebacker, Watt moving to the left side, Dupree to the right. It took some time for both of them to get comfortable in their new spots, but after a full calendar year of working on it they have settled in.
"I am way more comfortable on the left side and this is my first true year on the left side," said Watt. "I feel like I will have more moves for you to see this year. Hopefully create more splash and run downs. I feel like I can improve on run defense.
"It took time to knock the rust off. We had the offseason to train. I think we will be in store for a treat. More splash. More plays. I left a lot of plays out there. I got into a rhythm at the end of the season and felt more comfortable in all aspects of the game.
"My game is evolving and so am I as a leader. You have to realize who you are in the moment. This year will hopefully be more of a leadership role and take more chances and hopefully create some splash for the defense."