Those rare athletes who make it to the NFL and compete at a high level at this echelon of competition will have done so through an immense amount of hard work mixed with natural abilities that they have honed and harnessed to nearly the best of their abilities. It’s why they command millions and millions of dollars to do what they do, because you can’t just replace them with another player like him. There isn’t another one like him. Or at least very few.
With the hard work comes a dedication, a drive, and an endless dissatisfaction with your current level of performance, always striving to be better. But at the end of the day, what they’re ultimately doing is playing a game, and in order to get the most out of yourself—let alone the experience—it’s important to take the moments to appreciate the game and what you’re doing within it.
That was the message from Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, who is coming off a breakout season in 2018 in which he led the team with 13 sacks and six forced fumbles. Though not voted in outright, the second-year player even made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. It’s been too long since the Steelers sent an outside linebacker to the game—too long since they had an outside linebacker record more than eight sacks.
With Watt getting a baker’s dozen, he had plenty of opportunities to savor the moment, and he credits his older brother, J.J. Watt, for teaching him the importance of doing so, saying that the biggest thing that he taught him was to celebrate.
“You have a sack in the National Football League, at the highest level, it’s very hard to do so why not throw a party when you do it”, he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that sometimes gets lost. It’s so hard to play at this level. To do at such an elite level, you have to look around and taste the fruit. You can’t climb the tree and not taste the fruit every now and then”.
The former first-round pick is the closest thing the Steelers have to a playmaker on defense right now, so he can taste all the fruit he wants, to be quite frank. The more fruit he tastes, the better, because that means his seeds are blooming into a sustainable product.
And it’s not just for his own satisfaction that he celebrates, either, though that’s a part of it. It’s also about the fans.
“It’s a feeling like no other. It’s indescribable. You kind of black out and go crazy. You kick the leg up and it’s like wow”, he said. “The fans respond to it like no other. I love being able to control 65,000 plus people. When you do a move and they go crazy, it’s the greatest feeling in the world”.
The Heinz Field has been treated so far to 12 of his career 20 sacks, and they have certainly appreciated them when they’ve come, rare as they have been from outside linebackers in recent years. Here’s to hoping for a dozen more and then some in 2019, with the celebratory raised legs to cap them off.