Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt knows the toll that injuries can take on a football player. And he’s had his own moments of wondering whether it’s worth it to endure the demands of surgery and rehab, only to walk right into the fray and welcome more surgeries and rehabs.
So he understands why the quarterback Watt has been chasing for much of his career has decided to walk away, only a few weeks before turning 30.
“He’s an incredible competitor,” Watt told reporters regarding Luck on Saturday night, after a preseason game against the Cowboys. “I’ve loved playing against him. I think it takes an immense amount of courage, an immense amount of self-reflection and a lot of guts to do what he’s doing. I’m sure people have their ways of looking at it and their ways of trying to say what they would do in his shoes, but the truth is, nobody’s in his shoes. Nobody has had to go through what he has had to go through. Nobody has been through the rehab and injuries. Everybody sees game day. They don’t see the offseason. They don’t see the Monday through Friday and doing whatever he possibly can to get his body ready for the game. I respect the hell out of it. It takes a whole lot to walk away from a ton of money like that, an organization like that. I respect it. I’ve had a couple of injuries myself, so I know somewhat what he is going through. To be able to make a decision like that, that’s a tough one. I know he’s probably wrestled with it for a very long time. I wish him absolutely all the best.”
Watt elaborated on having made it through the worst football has to offer — the injuries.
“It’s brutal, because you know what you are capable of [when healthy],” Watt said. “He probably knows that as well. There are so many people that want you to be who you can be and want you to be great and want all these things and you want to be all those things for those people. The funny thing is that’s the way it goes. Everybody has their opinions and all these different things. It can have the ability to suck the fun out of the game. Like I said, I wish him absolutely nothing but the best, because he made the best decision for him. And that may not be popular and that may not be what people say they would do in that spot, but he has a whole life to live. You have to remember, you have a whole life to live after you are done playing football and he made the choice that that’s the best decision for him. Like I said, that’s not easy.”
It’s definitely not easy. And it’s definitely an intensely personal decision. Instead of being mad at the players who choose not to play, decisions like Luck’s should make us all appreciate even more the men who choose to keep doing it, year after year and injury after injury until they reach the point where someone else makes the decision that it’s over.