Justin James Watt, better known by football fans as J.J. Watt, has made quite the name for himself on the football field. A first round draft pick, perennial pro-bowler, defensive player of the year and an all-pro are just some of the countless accolades he has acquired in his career thus far. Watt has recently taken on a bigger role, however, one that for even him seems like it may be too much to tackle.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston has been left in shambles, scrambling to rebuild and put the pieces of the city back together. It has been reported that some areas in the Houston area received well over 50 inches of rain, leaving an entire city underwater. In times of turmoil and uncertainty some individuals rise above and perform truly heroic acts. For athletes, this usually calls for their play on the field, a storybook ending to their journey. Hurricane Harvey, unfortunately, provided this opportunity. Heroes such as J.J. Watt jumped at the chance to provide aid for the city they call home.
The story of Watt in the wake of the storm has gained national recognition for his contributions and support for the community. In a day and age where athletes are criticized more than ever for what they do and say, Watt has shown just how important an athletes voice can be, that “sticking to sports” is not always an option.
Following the storm, Watt reached out through social media for support from others with a simple goal in mind. The initial goal was to raise 200,000 dollars for the victims of Harvey. That goal seems like a distant memory as donations poured, within two hours the goal was met.
“Please keep sharing. Please keep donating. I can’t thank you enough,” Watt said in one video. “Every little thing helps. Just because the storm is receding doesn’t mean we can stop raising money.”
As of September 8, Watts hurricane fund has surpassed over 27 million dollars thanks to countless generous donations.
“I have this incredible platform, all this social media, all these followers. Let’s see if I can raise a little bit of money to help these people out. Try to get some relief efforts going.’ I just looked straight into the cell phone camera, started up a campaign, hoping to raise $200,000. Now we’re over $27 million.”
Even with all of the generous financial donations, Watt has not spent a cent of the money on his first phase of relief. 10 semi-trucks filled to the brim with supplies, food, and clean water was sent out to those in need thanks to over 150,000 donors assistance.
Phase 2, the presumed phase where the money will begin to be spent, won’t be coming so quickly though, says Watt. “I’m taking my time. I’m going to make sure that I do this right. This is a long-term project, not a one-day, a one-week, a one-year project.”
With all the destruction that Harvey caused to the city and inhabitants, it is easy to relate and compare it to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Twelve years removed from Katrina, New Orleans in some aspects is still recovering. If there is a team that knows that the game of football transcends sports in times of tragedy it is the New Orleans Saints, and most importantly, their captain, Drew Brees. The Saints were a pivotal factor in the rebirth of the city with their contributions in the community and on the field.
Understanding that it is best to seek help and guidance in times of tragedy such as this, Watt has reached out to Brees for advice on handling his current situation. It was reported that Brees’ advice was simple…winning helps. Aside from football, he stated that he should take his time, do the right thing for the people of Houston, don’t rush into any hasty decisions.
With new reports of tragedy and destruction each and every day from Houston, the real effort to regroup has only just begun. With heroes like J.J. Watt doing all they can, it provides further evidence to show that the only thing more influential than the voice of an individual like Watt is the action he takes.J.