Anybody who has a brother or sister knows how intense and influential a sibling relationship, or even rivalry, can be. Many believe that when siblings are of the same gender, the competition factor can be even more fierce. A trio of football-playing brothers is what the Watts have had to deal with for the past couple of decades.
T.J. Watt, the youngest of the brothers, has at times had to take the worst of it, because he grew up in the shadows of J.J. and Derek, who did everything first, including everything in sports, and he has been open in the past about how this has been a motivating factor for him.
“I want to be the best that I can possibly be”, he told USA Today recently. “Growing up, I had a lot of internal motivation, obviously, from being the youngest brother of Derek and J.J., and a lot of people in every interview I did growing up was always asking question about them”.
Both were accomplished athletes. By the time T.J. was even at Wisconsin, J.J. had already established himself as a Defensive Player of the Year. By the time he was transitioning to the defensive side of the ball at the position that would ultimately get him taken in the first round, Derek was entering the NFL as a draft pick at fullback.
There are, of course, plenty of advantage of being the younger sibling. You don’t get to do things first, but at the same time, you don’t have to do things first. The groundwork has already been done, and you can lean on the experience of your siblings. That’s what T.J. did during his rookie season to get off on the right foot, becoming a full-time starter from the word ‘go’ even though he was still inexperienced at his position.
Now three years into his professional career, however, he has already had tremendous success and established himself as one of the great young players not just at his position, or even on the defensive side of the ball, but in the NFL as a whole. In doing so, he has stepped out of the shadow of his older brothers. but that hasn’t changed much.
“I would always kind of store mental notes in my head and use it to train harder and harder and to fuel my fire throughout the years”, he said. “Now that I’ve kind of grown and blazed my own trail, the fire isn’t gone. I’m still very motivated to be the best person, the best player I can possibly be, and I’m just getting started, I can promise you that”.
I don’t think anybody will be surprised by those comments. From day one, Watt has come in here and presented himself as a self-motivated and driven individual, the kind of athlete who thinks he’s not doing enough unless he’s scoring on every play—even as a defender. And he’s still looking for his first score, so he probably considers himself a failure in some way.