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The Houston Texans will be releasing defensive end J.J. Watt, their face of the franchise for the past decade.
Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair said the move is one that underscores how difficult change can be.
“Change is never easy, especially when it involves the ones you love. J.J.’s impact on not only our organization, but the entire Houston community, is unlike any player in our franchise’s history,” McNair said. “I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan. We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a ‘see you soon.’
“For now, we will build upon the foundation that J.J. created here and forge ahead with our unwavering mission to bring a championship to our city, create memorable experiences for our fans and do great things for Houston.”
In addition to winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year a record three times, tied with Lawrence Taylor and Aaron Donald for the most in league history, Watt also won the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his fundraising efforts for the city of Houston and south Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
“Simply put, there has been no person in the past decade who has made a greater impact on the Texans organization than J.J. Watt,” co-founder and senior chair Janice S. McNair said in a statement. “J.J.’s dominance on the field was unprecedented and resulted in countless moments that will go down in Texans history.
To me, what best represents J.J.’s connection to Houston is his tradition of playing catch with the fans before every home game. The number of people who wear No. 99 jerseys with smiles on their faces totally encapsulated J.J.’s passion for bonding with Texans fans at every possible opportunity. His commitment to the community is unlike any player in NFL history. We are forever grateful to J.J. and his family.”
Watt shared in an Instagram post how much the city of Houston meant to him and how he will never take it for granted.
“The connection I have with the people of Houston is special, and I will never take that for granted because I know how rare it is. I just want you to know that I love you and I appreciate you,” Watt said. “I want to thank the McNair family for drafting me and giving me my first opportunity in the NFL. Thank you, Houston.”
The Texans selected Watt in Round 1 of the 2011 NFL draft, and he finished as the franchise’s leader in sacks with 101.0.