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T.J. Watt: ‘You Have To Be Confident To Get To Where You Truly Want To Get To’

In spite of the fact that he did not have a lot of experience playing the position at the college level, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt came into the NFL as a rookie first-round pick in 2017 brimming with the confidence in his own ability to put in the work it would take to succeed at this level.

At least that’s how he talked. He carried himself with an air of assurance in his own abilities that still fell far short of arrogance, and he still presents the same way. Talking to Rich Eisen last week, he expressed his belief that it’s integral, particularly at a stage like this.

“Having confidence is the biggest thing that is the realization to you that you belong”, he said. “The first couple years you’re kind of just trying to prove to yourself that you belong. And then once you kind of realize that everybody’s noticing, you get that whole second level of confidence, that, hey, I can do this, and I can do this at an elite level”.

Watt started over veteran former Pro Bowler James Harrison during his rookie season, which was at least mildly controversial at the time, but it helped that he recorded two sacks and an interception in his debut. Since then, he’s been very much in contention for the Defensive Player of the Year Award a couple times, and is entrenched in that race once again this year.

Listening to his early offseason interviews over the course of his career, you can see how his vision has evolved each year, growing from just somebody trying to contribute to now believing that he should be making an impact every time he’s on the field.

“That’s kind of when you tap into your true potential, and I truly think that the sky’s the limit not only for myself”, he said, “but for the team. I’m just getting started. You have to be confident to get to where you truly want to get to”.

Through six games on the season—missing one due to injury—Watt has 8.5 sacks with eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and three passes defensed. He led the NFL in sacks last season with 15, and in forced fumbles the year before that with eight. He’s not currently leading in any category, but we’ll see where we are at the end of the year.

That’s not his focus, though, or at least his primary goal, which is always team-first. “I think every single team in the National Football League should be thinking Super Bowl”, he said. “But it’s just one of those things where we have to take it one game at a time”.

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