When we talk about players, we focus on their traits. Their speed. Their hands. Their ability to rush, cover, run. What we don’t focus on the little things in a player’s day-to-day life that allows those traits to be shown on Sundays. Things like taking care of your body. Eating right. Getting enough sleep. Jumping in the cold tub even when it’s December and your body – in the moment – hates you for it.
On his Saturday appearance of the Mike Tomlin Show, Mike Tomlin made one of those points in describing T.J. Watt’s career arc, pointing to his ability to keep weight on as an underrated reason for his growth and development.
“He’s been at his job now for a number of years,” Tomlin told host Bob Pompeani when asked about Watt’s season. “He’s got his grown man body. We kid each other all the time. He’s able to maintain his body weight over the course of a season. When he was young, boy it was a real struggle for him to maintain that body weight. I’d watch him eat oatmeal and things like that in the morning to maintain it. That’s just where he is in life. He’s that type of a guy, as long as he’s got his health, he will be a legitimate contender for player of the year each and every year.”
Watt, for the record, has apparently kept oatmeal in his diet.
At his 2017 Pro Day, Watt weighed in at 252 pounds, the same weight the team site lists him at today. But a player’s weight can fluctuate wildly. Watt may have bulked up leading up to his Pro Day workout. And during the course of a season that does a number on the body, it’s common for players to lose a lot of weight. Burning calories every day at practice and throughout a game, it’s common for players to lose 5-7 pounds. In this 2020 Ringer article, former Browns’ OL John Greco said it was a common issue in the O-line room.
“I knew a lot of guys that struggled to keep weight on. They’d have to eat ungodly amounts of food. You’d see them the night before the weigh-ins, we’d go out as a group, as an O-line, and some guys would flat out come just to go and they wouldn’t eat to avoid a fine. And then there were guys who are eating lasagna, steaks, salads, appetizers, drinks. And you’re like, ‘My God, how are these guys able to do this?’”
It also went the other way with players unable to drop weight, too, a more known problem. That article cites former Steelers’ OT Barrett Brooks, who says he was subject to fines for being over his max weight of 338 pounds.
To hear Tomlin tell it, Watt had trouble keeping the pounds on throughout a season. After spending years in the league and finding out the right eating (and sleep) schedules, that appears to no longer be an issue.
Everything Watt has done seems to be working. It’s made him a defensive dynamo and frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, not to mention becoming the league’s highest-paid defensive player this summer.
The only thing that’s slowed Watt down this year have been recurring injuries. Sometimes they’re unavoidable, and playing through them doesn’t help, but maybe Watt will spend the offseason looking for ways to tweak his training program to sidestep those issues going forward. Having a full, normal summer in 2022 will only help.