When Derek Watt signed with the Steelers last month, his brother, linebacker T.J. Watt, wasn't the only family member who was thrilled with the newest addition to the black and gold.
Watt's parents, Connie and John Watt, were absolutely beside themselves that two of their three sons would once again be reunited as teammates.
Derek, his wife Gabriella and son Logan, were staying at his parent's home in Wisconsin when the call came from the Steelers, delivering the good news that he found a new football home. Sure, there had been a little bit of talk about the team's interest in him circulating around the Watt household for a little while, but none of them were counting on it. Until the call came.
"We knew there were a few teams that were interested having spoken to the boy's agents," said John. "He told us Pittsburgh was interested, but he put that one on the back burner because he didn't want to make too much of that and get hopes up and things. It was a surprise that day when it all went down so quickly. But it was a good surprise.
"You could see the smile on Derek's face a mile wide when he had to opportunity to come out of the room after being on the phone with the coaches and stuff and let us know it was Pittsburgh. He was beaming from ear to ear, that is for sure."
Connie wasn't at home when the call came, instead out with Gabriella and Logan picking up some essentials. When Derek called Gabriella to share the amazing news, they just couldn't believe it.
"I was not allowing myself to get my hopes up that high when I heard they were interested. It was my dream. But I was trying hard," said Connie, who received some Steelers stuff for Logan last year as a gift and while she wasn't allowed to put it on him then, she has pulled it out now. "It was a complete shock. I instantly burst into tears and of course then Logan saw me and burst into tears. We were so happy for so many reasons. To have them together again.
"We know Pittsburgh is just an amazing organization, team and place. We couldn't say enough good things to Derek and Gabriella about it. The excitement was through the roof."
Derek and T.J. are no strangers to being teammates. While older brother, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt never had the opportunity to play with his brothers other than in the backyard because of the age gap, Derek and T.J. were teammates at Pewaukee High School and at the University of Wisconsin.
"The kids will always say J.J. has always done everything first because he is the oldest," said Connie. "But this is one thing he can't do. Money can't buy that. It's an experience he is definitely jealous of. They are all so competitive, but also so supportive of each other. It would be cool to have them together. We didn't razz J.J., we let the boys do that."
The Watts have so many memories of all three of their sons playing football through the years, and the ones of Derek and T.J. playing together are ones they thought were in the past. That has certainly changed.
"We have a picture when the boys were in college. The last game they played together, the bowl game in San Diego," recalled John. "When they were walking off the field, they were walking arm in arm. Connie and I were thinking that is the last time we will see our kids playing together, what a neat experience. And little did we know that just a few years later they would get the chance to do it again. It's amazing."
And what is going to be really special for the Watt family this year is when the Steelers and Texans play each other at Heinz Field, and the three boys will be playing in the same game for the first time ever.
"I have never been able to get a photo or anything with all three boys in uniform together," said Connie. "They always look at me like mom we aren't going to bring our uniforms home in the offseason. For me it's going to be really cool that way just to see them. It's still surreal. I still walk by their big photos of them in their uniforms and think this really is surreal, our kids are in the NFL. It just sinks in, and then at other times it's such a cool thing. It will be incredible, and we will have a lot of people in the stands that day."
While first and foremost the Watts are thrilled for their sons getting to play together again, there is also a huge benefit for them. They have been regulars at their games from high school, to college, to the NFL. But it hasn't always been easy. Derek was with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers prior to signing with the Steelers, J.J. in Houston and T.J. in Pittsburgh. Trying to get to as many of their games as possible meant a lot of cross-country travel and not much time at each destination.
Now, the travel schedule will be a lot less complex.
"Just the practical side of it, the ease of not having to get all the way across country to go out to California," said John. "To just have to get to Pittsburgh for two of them instead, and especially when you guys play the Texans and J.J. this year and, it's going to be one place, one weekend. That is going to be awesome.
"Our big calendar is going to look a lot easier. Usually at the beginning of the year when the schedule comes out, Connie sits down and we do an organization night where everything gets written down on the big calendar for each weekend, how we are going to get there, where we will be, where we will go after that. I think the big calendar will have a little less writing on it this year. It's a good thing for sure."
What the condensing of the teams will allow for the Watt parents is more quality time with their sons. Less travel will mean more family time, more enjoying each other the way the love to do.
"We already talked about how when the Steelers have two home games back to back we will be able to do some traveling around the Pittsburgh area and Pennsylvania area and get to see some more spots we haven't had the chance to see because we always had to rush out to get to another game in a different state," said Connie. "Any time you can drive to get to your kids, that is a huge win for me, being able to be there at the drop of a hat. We can be there, help Derek and Gabriella explore Pittsburgh on their own, while we take Logan. We have already been talking up a storm about all of the great things they can do there. We are very excited. It's going to be special to get there in a nine-hour car drive."
One thing they won't have to deal with on a nine-hour car drive is the whole family being packed in the car together, like they were in one of a series of Subway ads the five of them took part in. It was mom and dad in the front seat, with the three sons in the back, bickering like young kids would over whose sandwich was whose.
"It was fantastic doing those ad. It came up quickly and the plans were made fast," said John. "The day we filmed it was a blast. We had all been separated for a while, and then we all came together and were able to spend the day together goofing around and stuff and filming the commercial. It was really special spending the time with all five of us. For the whole family to do it was special."
The real star of the ads was Connie, who took charge of her three big sons without taking any slack from them.
"It brought back a lot of memories. It was kind of realistic," said Connie. "As we filmed it, I was in the front seat and Trent comes out and says mom, you can be meaner than that. I told him I was. He said you can be meaner.
"We kept saying if they could do all of the takes in between, when the cameras weren't rolling and how the boys were, it would be amazing. The ribbing they have given each other has been hilarious. It was wonderful."
The entire Watt family is currently in Wisconsin, something that has been a blessing for all of them while people are in a stay at home mode. Derek and his family are staying with his parents, T.J. and his girlfriend have an apartment, and J.J. and his wife have a home nearby. It's allowing them to spend time together but doing so in a responsible manner.
"It was nice that Trent got an apartment in January, so he isn't under the same roof as us. That would have gotten kind of congested," said Connie. "Trent and Dani are together, Derek and his family are with us, and J.J. and his wife are with their dogs. We can walk over to J.J.'s and visit and we are all keeping our social distance. We sit six feet apart. We can see the kids.
"It's challenging and hard on a parent's heart that you can't really go and hug your kids and be with them as much as you want to be. But we are all doing our part because everybody wants to do their part to get to where we want to be all back together and back to life as normal and football."