Mar 2, 2021
JJ Watt Introductory Press Conference with Arizona Cardinals Transcript March 2
J.J. Watt held his introductory press conference on March 2, 2021 after signing with the Arizona Cardinals. He discussed his conversation with Marshall Goldberg’s daughter and the decision to wear number 99. Read the transcript of his briefing remarks here.
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J.J. Watt: (00:00)
… unbelievable from the very beginning of this. Michael Bidwell literally flying me down here with my wife was incredible. Steve and Cliff and Vance and everybody has just been so welcoming and energized. I’ve met a lot of the players in the building already, a lot of the staff in the building, and I’m looking forward to meeting everybody out in the city and getting to know people here. I just want everybody to know how excited I am and how fired up I am to be here and how motivated I am to help take this team to the next level.
Speaker 2: (00:30)
At that we will open it up for questions.
Colin Harman: (00:36)
Hey, J.J. Colin Harman with ABC 15 here in Phoenix. Welcome to the Valley. Just curious with I assume a handful of potential suitors, what made Arizona a desirable landing spot for you?
J.J. Watt: (00:47)
Yeah. The longer I looked at it, the more just signs kept pointing back down here. There’s a lot of exciting things about what’s happening down here in Arizona. I’ve always said in this league, you have to have a quarterback to have a chance, and there’s a young, extremely talented quarterback here who can do big things and is going from year two to year three and can take an even bigger jump to continue to grow and progress and be even better. Then, I mean, you’ve got DeAndre Hopkins, who’s one of the best wide receivers in the league I’m obviously very familiar with. You’ve got a defensive scheme that’s led by Vance Joseph, who I was with my first three years down in Houston under Wade Phillips, and Vance runs a similar scheme to Wade, which is a scheme I’m very familiar with and very comfortable with and excited to play in.
J.J. Watt: (01:29)
You’ve got guys like Chandler Jones and Budda Baker, and guys all over that defense that are really young, excited guys ready to get after it, ready to fly around and make some plays. So I’m just very excited to be here. And I’m also not going to lie to you, it doesn’t hurt when it’s 65 degrees and sunny outside when I woke up this morning. So it’s pretty nice.
Speaker 2: (01:47)
Next up. We’ll go. Bob, Mark, and Kyle, please.
J.J., along that same question. How close was it between the Cardinals and the other suitors that made serious offers? And why was it ultimately that you chose Arizona?
J.J. Watt: (02:07)
Yeah, I mean, it was certainly close. I mean, in the NFL, it’s always a difficult decision when you’re trying to decide where to play, and I’m fortunate and thankful to all the teams that showed their interest, that put offers out there, and that wanted to bring me to their team. But at the end of the day, Arizona, with everything that’s going on here and the amount of talent that they have and the opportunity that sits in front of them, I’m just very, very excited to be here and very excited to help develop and grow and take this thing to the next level.
Hey J.J., welcome to the Valley of the Sun. Hey, there’s been so much talk, excitement in the Valley about this, but also talk about how much gas you have left in the tank, so I’ll just ask, how much gas do you feel like you have left in the tank?
J.J. Watt: (02:50)
A lot, a whole lot.
Hey, J.J., what was the conversation like with Marshall Goldberg’s daughter? And are you pretty excited to keep number 99, keep wearing that?
J.J. Watt: (03:06)
Yeah. So this morning when I woke up, I saw the TMZ report and I got my news in. It said that somebody had reached out to her and she had given the blessing for me to wear 99 and that they would be honored if I would do that. And so I wanted to hear it from her directly, I wanted to have a conversation with her to make sure and confirm that. Not that I don’t trust sources, but I just want to make sure and hear it for myself. And we had a great conversation. She was super sweet, said that she believes her father would be honored and he was all about the players, and so she said that she thought he would want me to wear it. So I’m very honored and touched that they thought of me in that way and that I can do that. So I told her that I would do everything in my power to honor him and to make him proud and make his legacy proud.
J.J. Watt: (03:56)
I told her that I would make a donation to the fund they have in his name. So I will definitely be doing that. But also, as part of this, I want to make sure that people know the name and are aware of Marshall Goldberg and everything that he did, including his time in the Navy in the middle of his NFL career. So I appreciate that, I appreciate the family, and I want to give a big thank you to them.
Speaker 2: (04:20)
Next up, please. Josh, Katherine, and Richard.
Josh Weinfuss: (04:25)
Hey, J.J., Josh Weinfuss with ESPN. Adding you to this mix, how do you think you help this team become a contender? They were one game basically away from a playoff last year. What do you think you can add to this defense and how do you think that helps?
J.J. Watt: (04:38)
Yeah, I mean, first and foremost is play on the field. I mean, it’s tackles for loss, it’s sacks, it’s batted balls, it’s going out there and making plays, changing the game, helping swing momentum, it’s taking blockers off of other guys. Whatever I need to do from a playing standpoint, it’s that, it’s dominating. It’s dominating, that’s what I’ll say. And then from a leadership standpoint, I’m coming in here to try and help teach these young guys, to help show them the way, to help be an example for them to follow in terms of work, but also to cultivate the work they’re already doing. I mean, I was in the weight room this morning and there’s a big group of guys in there lifting and wanting to get better and wanting to grow. I’m here to just help that, and if they have questions, if they want to learn anything, if there’s anything that I can do to help lead them and take them to that next level, that’s what I’m here to do. But make no mistake. I’m also here to go dominate on the field and help us win games.
Hey, J.J., Katherine from the Arizona Republic. Good to meet you. I know off the field too your community efforts have been such a huge part of your platform during your time in the league. And so while your foundation has already worked across the country, what’s it going to be like getting involved in a new community and getting to know Arizona in that sense?
J.J. Watt: (05:50)
Yeah. Thank you. It’s a great question. I’m very excited to get involved here in Arizona and to learn. When I do something, I go all in, and so I’m very excited to dive all into Arizona and to learn about the area and to learn where the needs are and how I can help. I actually was talking to my mom yesterday and she just did a quick dive into our research for my foundation. We’ve already donated to eight schools in Arizona throughout our lifetime. So I’m sure that number will increase here as we move forward. There’s a project that I actually have had in the works for six plus months that I can’t fully share the details yet, but we’ve been working with Marie Tillman and The Tillman Foundation on a very cool project that’ll be coming in the next few months. So it’s coincidental how this worked out, and I’m very excited to share that with the people of Arizona too.
Richard Saenz: (06:34)
Hey, J.J., welcome to the Valley. Richard Saenz here at Fox 10 Phoenix. Your body of work, your numbers speak for themselves. You’ve been one of the premier defensive players in the league for quite some time. We have the guy here in Chandler Jones that’s been doing the same thing. When you think of you two guys on the same side of the football and the problems you guys can cause for opposing offenses, what goes through your mind as now you know this is a reality?
J.J. Watt: (07:08)
I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the headache of blocking that. That’s what goes through my mind. I’m looking forward to playing with Chandler. Like I said earlier, he’s an incredible player, an incredible pass rusher, and I can’t wait to get out there and to work with him, and to just put in the work, just to be on the practice field, to be talking about games we want to run together, to be talking about schemes we want to. What do we see? How do we see things? And that’s one of the most fun parts of the game is when you have guys that love the game and that love studying the film and that love being on the practice field and that love putting in the work.
J.J. Watt: (07:39)
When you have a full team of guys like that, who just have a passion for winning and have the drive for wanting to be great, that’s when football is just the best, because then you feed off of each other and everybody’s asking questions and it’s, “How can we get better? What did you see here? How can you do this?” And there’s nothing better than that feeling, and that’s how everybody around you gets better.
Next up, please. Darren, Kevin, and Chierstin.
Darren Urban: (08:04)
Hey, J.J. Darren Urban from azcardinals.com. I’m curious what the pitch was from the Cardinals when they first started talking to you. When they were talking to you, how did much that encompass? How much of the leadership part of it did they bring up? What was that like?
J.J. Watt: (08:21)
Yeah, I mean, I give them credit. They attacked from all angles. I think Steve and Michael and everybody did a great job of, I mean, there were players, there were coaches, there were non-football people whatsoever that reached out and were in my ear and trying to convince me to come down here and telling me all the great things about it. And not only on the field, but sending me pictures of Paradise Valley and everything off the field as well. So the recruiting pitch was strong and heavy, but at the end of the day, I was just telling my wife, “All signs just kept pointing back down here to Arizona.” And in my short time here on the ground, I can tell you that I’m absolutely pleased and couldn’t be happier with my decision.
Hey, J.J. Kevin from arizonasports.com. Welcome. Going off that, just in the process of free agency, that’s probably new for you. What was it like just having all those people reaching out, Chandler in your DMs, stuff like that? And did you learn anything about yourself or your priorities as just a professional?
J.J. Watt: (09:23)
Yeah. It’s a wild process. As a fan of sports in general, I was excited to go through it just to see what free agency’s like. I think as a player and also just as a fan, you always wonder what’s that actually like for the player? What’s it like when your agents are calling you? What’s it like when teams are calling and offering? Or you have a fan bases on social media and you have news reports and fake news reports and real news reports and all, just there’s so many different things that go into it. And then you start to consider all the different situations and all the different things that go into a decision, and so many different factors go into a decision on where you’re going to play and where you’re going to live. It’s a fascinating process, and it was really cool to go through for me to see what it’s like. And I’m very happy that it ended with a place here I’m extremely excited to be.
Hi, J.J. I’m Chierstin with 12 News. I was just on a call with Chris Paul so I was wondering if you could talk about your relationship with him a little bit. And he said that he was just talking to Devin Booker about you signing with the Cardinals, and they were talking about how much just good energy is in the Valley right now. Did you at any point get the sense that there’s just a vibe right now within the sports world here in Phoenix and it’s just a good place to be overall?
J.J. Watt: (10:40)
I have definitely gotten that vibe within the last 24 hours, I can tell you that for sure. The energy is palpable. You can feel it. There’s definitely an excitement. There’s an energy in the air. And I’m very excited to be a part of that and I’m excited to cultivate and help it grow and help that energy only get bigger. But I mean, Chris, he’s an incredible guy. He’s an incredible person. He’s an incredible player, a father. Just the way he handles himself and the way he goes about his business, he’s a guy I have so much respect for, and I think everybody around the league and everybody around the world has respect for Chris and the way he does things. So I’m very excited to be back in the same area as him and Book and all those guys. And if there isn’t enough energy in the Valley already, we’re going to try and turn it up even a few more notches.
Speaker 2: (11:24)
Next up, Bob, Mark Berman, Mark McClune.
J.J., two quick things. Where do you expect to line up on a regular basis? Three point stance, or are you going to go to the outside? And also, did Steve Kiem and Michael talk about the money, now that they’ve sped up a good chunk of it on you, what they can do to maybe bring back Peterson or Haason Raddick and will your move help influence Larry to return?
J.J. Watt: (11:52)
First question. I’ll line up wherever I have to. Wherever they want me to line up, I’m very comfortable playing any position all the way up and down the line. And I’m sure I’ll move around a lot, just like I have in the past. So whatever Vance and the coaches feel like is the best position to put me in, the best position to help our defense have success, that’s where I’ll go. It doesn’t really matter much to me. And in terms of Steve and Michael and what our plans are moving forward, and they’ve talked, we’ve had very, very brief conversations about what it looks like here the rest of the off season to put some more pieces together for this team, but I think that we’re all very excited about what’s possible hearing about what can happen here and what this season might look like for us.
Mark Berman: (12:35)
Hey, J.J., how are you.
J.J. Watt: (12:37)
Mark, how are you, buddy?
Mark Berman: (12:37)
Good, man. A couple of things. One, what was it like for you when you reached the conclusion that it was time to leave Houston? And the second part of my question is, can you look back on some of your favorite moments when you were playing here with the Texas?
J.J. Watt: (12:52)
Yeah, it was extremely difficult. I mean, 10 years with Houston and the relationship that was built and the bond that I feel with that city is unlike anything I ever could have imagined or expected. And I realize that that’s special and that’s rare, and I’m so thankful for it. I mean, I truly feel like the city of Houston is my family. Those people will forever have a place in my heart and I will forever consider it a home. Nobody can really fully understand it unless you were there and you’ve been through it. I will love that place forever. And then moving on, obviously, it was difficult to do, and it’s never easy, but very excited about new beginnings and very excited about where I’m headed here in Arizona and looking forward to building and cultivating that bond with the Arizona fan base.
Mark McClune: (13:45)
Hey, J.J. I think fans first started maybe getting excited about this when they saw DeAndre Hopkins’ Instagram posts of the two of you together in Cardinals jerseys. How much did that help with the recruiting process? And what’s it mean to reunite with DeAndre?
J.J. Watt: (13:59)
Yeah. I mean, it never hurts to have one of the best wide receivers in the game going out there and stumping for you, and especially the guy who’s a friend and I’ve known for a very long time. And it doesn’t hurt to have a guy that can catch a ball anywhere on the field and score touchdowns and catch a Hail Mary over three guys. That doesn’t hurt either to have on your team. But I’m very excited to be back on the team with him. I’m very excited to be able to have a front row seat to watching the plays that he makes, especially with him and Kyler connecting and some of the things that they’re able to do between the two of them on the field in Cliff’s offense. So I’m excited about that and it’ll be nice to have a little Gatorade on the bench and just watch them go to work.
Speaker 2: (14:37)
Next are [Omo 00:14:39], Josh, Katherine.
Hey, J.J. I just want to get your thoughts on Vance Joseph and your memories of being around him on the same defense there with him as the DBs coach. What about his system makes this an attractive system to play in? And also, what made you get into the relationship with the Pat Tillman Foundation, and what does it mean to you to know that you’ll be walking the same halls, sitting in those same meeting rooms, walking past his locker every day?
J.J. Watt: (15:11)
Yeah. First on Vance. I had a great time with Vance early in my career. He’s a great coach, very, very knowledgeable, great command of the system, his players. He knows how to handle the guys. He’s a great coach. So that has its own merits to it, and then obviously the scheme that he runs is a scheme I’m very familiar with, something that I’m very excited to play in again, trying to get a lot of one-on-ones, trying to get guys freed up so that you have that opportunity to go get after the passer while rush and coverage work in tandem together. And so we get covering on the backhand and we get a rush up front to make them get the ball out quicker. All things are going to help each other be better. So it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to that.
J.J. Watt: (15:51)
And then I’ve obviously long been a fan of Pat Tillman, just what he stood for, who he was, and everything about his legacy is unbelievable to me. So to be here, to be walking the same halls that he walked in. To see his locker today was special for me. And the reason that I decided to work with The Tillman Foundation on this project months back was because every year I try and do at least one thing with the military because of how grateful and thankful that I am for their service. And I truly believe that they’re the ones that deserve the amount of praise and fame that we as athletes get, because they’re the ones that protect us and protect our freedoms and give us the opportunity to play this game for a living. And so this year, I chose Pat just because of what he means and everything. And working with Marie and working with Dan over at The Tillman Foundation, they’ve been unbelievable and they’ve been very kind and generous with me. And I’m excited to continue that work now that I’m down here in Arizona full-time.
Josh Weinfuss: (16:57)
Hey J.J. Did you make a relationship with Cliff at all from his time in Texas? And then my other question for you is, how far do you think this team is away from a deep playoff run and/or a Super Bowl?
J.J. Watt: (17:10)
I did not have a relationship before with Cliff. We had a lot of mutual people who we knew because of his time in Houston. And last night at dinner, we talked a lot about Houston and his time down there when he was at UH, and then obviously up at Texas Tech. So there’s an immediate bond there and an immediate connection. And then how far away, I mean, a few months. You’ve got to get to the season before you can get to the playoffs, right? So I’m just looking forward to getting out there on the field and getting to work. Like I said at the beginning of this call, we have one goal in mind, and you don’t set your goal for the championship four or five, six years down the road. You set it for this year, so that’s the goal.
J.J., on the Texas overlap note, Kyler had shared a picture of y’all meeting when he was, I think, a senior in high school. Was that the first time you guys met and how much had you followed his career between now and then?
J.J. Watt: (18:00)
Yeah, that was the first time we met. I believe it was at a Gatorade dinner back when he was Gatorade High School Player of the Year, and I think I was actually presenting the award to him that night or something like that. So it was pretty wild now to be on the same team. But yeah, I’ve obviously seen his career. He’s had an unbelievable career. He’s an incredible athlete and what he’s been able to accomplish. He’s been a winner at every stage of his life, and that’s not a coincidence. You’re a winner because of the way that you work or that you give off and because of the talent that you have, and I think that he has all of those things and he’s going to continue to win and continue to have success. And that’s a part of the reason that I’m here. I told him yesterday in a text, I said, “I’m here because I believe in you.” You have to have a quarterback in this league to have a chance and he’s our guy, and I’m looking forward to going out there and playing with him.
Speaker 2: (18:52)
Wrap it up with four more. Nick, Jared, Howard, Darren.
J.J., you were talking about going through this free agency process for the first time. At what point did you decide that you wanted to break the news yourself on social media? And it’s jarring sitting here and seeing you in a Cardinals shirt, what’s it like to look down and see that logo?
J.J. Watt: (19:15)
Yeah, the whole process, like I said earlier, we kept it very quiet on our side, everything from who was involved to what was involved to everything. There was a lot of rumors and reports and everything, but for us on our end it was just funny to sit back and watch it all play out because we knew who was actually in it, how it all goes and everything. And we were just sitting there and staying quiet the whole time. And then at the very end, when I decided that Arizona was the place, we realized how quiet it had truly been on that front. And I said, “I think I’m going to announce this one on my own,” take control of your own narrative as a player. And so this is funny, it’s stupid too, but whatever, a few days earlier, we had known the final four or five teams, we had an idea of who the final four or five teams were, so I had shirts for each team order just in case the situation arose.
J.J. Watt: (20:17)
But we were trying to keep this so quiet that I didn’t trust whoever at the packaging facility would not see my name on the package and put two and two together, and so I had my brother’s high school friend order, use his credit card and his address, and he shipped the shirts to his house. And then he brought them over to my house so that we can make this all happen. So shout out to Doug and Joe for making this happen. I appreciate you guys. They’re the true brains behind the shirt that I wore for the workout.
Hey J.J. Yeah, that was pretty smooth, man.
J.J. Watt: (20:59)
It wasn’t that smooth behind the scenes, I’m not going to lie. Seeing my friend, Joe, try and figure out how to use Amazon was a pretty nice treat in its own right, so I appreciate the laughs.
Well, congratulations on your fresh start.
J.J. Watt: (21:12)
I’m wondering right now what your sentiments are for Deshaun Watson. Obviously, you and him and others there built so much, and all of the guys who have left in the past couple, three years, what are you thinking about when you think about Deshaun and where it could go for him?
J.J. Watt: (21:31)
I love Deshaun. I love Deshaun. We speak often. He’s an incredible player, but he’s an incredible person. He’s a special human being and he’s obviously unbelievably talented as an athlete, but he is also just a great person. And I tell him, the one thing I want for Deshaun Watson is for him to be happy. He deserves it and I want him to be happy. So whatever that looks like for him, that’s what I want for him.
J.J., you mentioned Chandler and all the positives that he brings in different areas, but maybe the most important thing is, how is he as a chef?
J.J. Watt: (22:07)
I think we’re going to find that out here at some point. Actually, the positive that I’m most looking forward to his being his friend and going on these trips like he was just on last week. I mean, I don’t know if you guys saw it or not, but he was on a private jet over to Hawaii, I think it was. And he brought some teammates and I was starting to think that I signed a week too late. I could have had a nice free trip to Hawaii as a part of this, which would have been a good little icing on the cake. But maybe I can entice him to take me out more in the future.
Darren Urban: (22:34)
J.J., a couple quick things to wrap this up. One, are you a teaching teammate with some of your young defensive linemen or are you like, “Hey, watch me as an example and do what I do”? And then finally, were you prepared to not have 99 if this hadn’t worked out or had you thought that far? Did you even know it was retired?
J.J. Watt: (22:55)
Great questions. I appreciate that. So the first question, I have evolved over my career in that terms. Early in my career, I was an example only guy. I was a guy who was going to go out there, :I’m going to do my work, you want to watch, you want to learn, absolutely feel free. And I’ll answer questions if you have them, but, just, I’m working, so don’t get in my way.” As I’ve gone and I’ve matured and I’ve grown up as a person and as a player, I’m still going to put in the exact same work. You can still watch it and be inspired by that and work alongside me, but I’m also going to teach and I’m going to help cultivate those young players and I’m going to help them grow if I can see that opportunity to do that.
J.J. Watt: (23:32)
Because I believe that there’s a lot of knowledge that I’ve gained in these 10 years in this league, and there’s things that I’ve seen, there’s stuff that I can pass down to guys that I believe is very beneficial. And so I’ve grown in capacity and I’ll be doing both by example and by teaching. And then, what was the second question? Sorry.
Darren Urban: (23:53)
Were you aware that 99 had been retired? And how were you thinking about that before everything happened this morning?
J.J. Watt: (23:59)
Yeah. When I finally made the decision on Arizona, I looked at the roster and saw 99 was open. So I was excited about that. And then I later found out from a different high school friend, this is Evan, my whole high school friends and everybody’s involved in this, so Evan told me that 99 was actually retired and Marshall Goldberg, told me the whole story on that. So I said, “Oh, that’s great,” because he had a great story. So I was already looking at other numbers and options. And then this morning when I saw the report about Ellen and her words that they would like me to wear it, I was touched. Literally, I felt gratitude and thanks, because I thought that was a very special thing for them to do, and I’m extremely grateful for it.
Speaker 2: (24:40)
I think that’ll do it. J.J., thanks so much.
J.J. Watt: (24:44)
Thank you guys. Appreciate it.
Darren Urban: (24:44)
Thank you, J.J.
J.J. Watt: (24:45)
Excited to be in the Valley. Y’all have a great day. Go Cards.