On the wall that extends from the primary ground to the second within the Wisconsin residence she shared along with her mom, Chris Walczak hangs photos of each particular person in her complete household and their vital others.
Included within the picture collage are just a few recognizable faces: J.J. and Kealia Watt, Derek and Gabriella Watt, and T.J. Watt and girlfriend Dani Rhodes.
Amid all of the framed members of the family is a single piece of paper tacked to the wall, and on it, a degree of delight to Walczak and her ultra-competitive grandsons: the winner of the rummy recreation most not too long ago performed at her kitchen desk. Just just a few toes away in a chest drawer are a stack of recent notepads and pens together with a stash of scorecards from the a long time of kitchen-table competitions.
Long earlier than the Watt brothers — J.J., 31; Derek, 27; and T.J., 25 — ready to compete on the identical area when the Houston Texans go to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) — simply the second set of three brothers since 1927 to play in the identical NFL recreation — they gathered round Walczak’s desk with their grandmother and great-grandmother Sophie Musial. Walczak would combine up their particular drinks — cranberry juice and Sprite — and pour it right into a set of particular sippy cups with lids and swirly straws they nonetheless use in the present day.
“She is extremely competitive, and up until she passed at 101, she was not going to let anybody try to win,” stated Connie Watt, the matriarch of the Watt household, of Musial. “She was going to try to be the competitive one. So that was always a lot of fun and that trickled down now.”
If John and Connie Watt ever puzzled the place their three sons received their aggressive nature, they do not need to look a lot additional than their grandmother’s kitchen desk.
“Sometimes you never finish a game,” stated J.J., the Texans’ star defensive finish. “Sometimes you go longer but it’s all about just sitting around the table talking, spending time with family and being extremely competitive. Great-grandma, even when she was 100 years old, takes no prisoners. When that’s the attitude of your 100-, 101-year-old grandma, it kind of trickles down throughout the whole family.”
The basement enviornment
The basement partitions of the Watt household residence throughout the brothers’ childhood had been at all times dotted with scuff marks and dings, tangible recollections of shinny hockey video games, indoor mini-baseball and wrestling matches.
Growing up, the brothers reworked their basement into an all-sport enviornment with wrestling mats and a full hockey internet. When they weren’t taking part in with neighborhood youngsters exterior throughout the three backyards of adjoining heaps within the cul-de-sac, they had been within the basement, careening into lamps, TVs and sometimes one another.
“Specifically,” stated Derek, a fullback for the Steelers, “I don’t necessarily know of something that we broke.”
T.J. jumped in: “I broke your face one time.”
That was life within the Watt family with three boys separated by practically six years. There had been at all times video games, and inevitably they might get taken a small too far.
Connie at all times timed snack breaks conveniently to deescalate a contest.
“We had to step in a few times when they were younger, like I say, down in the basement, shinny hockey games, or out in the backyard, whatever they were doing, just to let things cool down for maybe 30 seconds or so,” John stated. “But then they would be right back out again after that. So usually, when things got too bad, it would just be up to Connie to say, ‘OK, I got a snack or have some kind of food waiting for you guys up here. Let’s take a break.’ And that would definitely get them up and get them apart for a while.”
Even if he received heated again then, T.J., the youngest, is fast to credit score these yard and basement video games for serving to him flip into an elite athlete and competitor.
“It was super important in my development, to play with J.J. and Derek, to get beat up a lot when I was younger,” stated T.J., a Steelers exterior linebacker. “But [also], to be resilient and continue to grow and learn from my experiences playing with those guys.”
And as adults, the Watts have not misplaced their uber-competitive streak with one another. Instead of shinny hockey, they flip different issues into competitions: who can soar the farthest, eat probably the most meals or end a bowl of their least-favorite vegetable.
Gabriella, Derek’s spouse, remembers watching her now-husband down a whole bowl of chopped bell peppers — considered one of his aversions on the time — as a result of J.J. dared him.
“It was not like him at all, but he didn’t want to turn down his brother’s competition, so he went ahead and did it,” Gabriella stated.
“J.J. did not think that Derek was actually going to do it because he knows what a picky eater he is, but then he sees, ‘Oh my gosh, the bowl is slowly having less and less peppers.’ He’s trying to get in his head, ‘Oh, isn’t that gross, isn’t that gross? It’s going to hurt your stomach.'”
Of course, Derek completed the whole bowl.
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The trio additionally turns board video games and card video games, love rummy, into high-stakes affairs — with one another and with their vital others. Their wives and girlfriend do not again down from a problem, both. Kealia and Rhodes are skilled soccer gamers, each taking part in for the Chicago Red Stars, and Gabriella performed sports activities earlier than pursuing a profession as a sideline reporter.
“They’re supposed to be a fun way to end a night and kind of relax, and I think especially in quarantine, it’s sometimes gotten the best of us where we’re like, ‘OK, we’re not playing cards or a board game tonight,'” Rhodes stated. “That’s not a fun thing anymore.”
It’s not simply that the brothers wish to win, it is that they do not wish to end final.
And at any time when considered one of them does, he is at all times a received a cause.
“We set up golf games in our apartment,” Rhodes stated. “If he loses, it’s because he golfs lefty and he was using my righty clubs or something like that. There’s always competition and there’s always excuses on whoever’s end is losing.”
Since Derek and Gabriella had their first son, Logan, a yr and a half in the past, the brothers have turn out to be even nearer.
“And even more competitive,” Connie stated with amusing.
Leave it to the Watts to show being an uncle into a contest.
When Logan was first born and Derek was nonetheless taking part in for the Chargers, T.J. despatched him a No. 90 Watt Steelers jersey.
“J.J. found out about that and he’s like, ‘OK, I just ordered one today, it’s in the mail,'” Gabriella stated. “They don’t want to find out that Logan is getting more gifts or just spending more time with the other uncle.”
Since Derek signed with the Steelers in free company, T.J. has the sting in spending time with Logan. It’s not unusual for him to pop over to Derek’s home, strolling distance from his personal in Pittsburgh, to see Logan earlier than he goes to mattress. It’s an opportunity for him to bond together with his nephew — and get an edge within the competitors to see who could make Logan snigger probably the most.
With Derek and T.J. taking part in for a similar group, Logan is inundated with Steelers gear, however J.J. nonetheless tries to sway Logan with some Texans toys.
“He’s wearing Steelers stuff all the time,” J.J. stated. “He lives like four houses away from T.J. The whole thing is just set up for me to fail in terms of being a great uncle. I can send him all the Texans stuff I want but it ends up in the dog’s chew-toy bin.”
T.J. may need the sting within the uncle race, however he nonetheless has some work to do to be the No. 1 Watt babysitter. So far, he is watched Logan one time, and Logan napped for many of it. T.J. introduced him a rock — “he loves rocks” — and Logan did not cry when T.J. picked him up from the crib.
Naturally, T.J. desires to be one of the best at every part, however there’s one hurdle protecting him from totally excelling at babysitting duties.
“I don’t know what better job I could’ve done,” T.J. stated. “I’m not changing diapers, though. That’s where I draw the line.”
Derek shook his head.
“That’s a crucial part of being a babysitter,” Derek stated. “We’ll see, maybe J.J. will change a diaper down the line, and it’ll make things shift in the other direction.”
For years, at any time when J.J., Derek and T.J. labored out collectively at NX Level in Waukesha, Wisconsin, proprietor Brad Arnett knew he needed to regulate the schedule. The three brothers turned every part into a contest, whether or not it was a dash exercise, plyometrics or netball throws.
“Someone may win, but the other two are going to find fault as to what he did wrong that let him win,” Arnett stated. “So you’ve got to do it again. And you’ve got to do it again. And you’ve got to do it again. So I just always have to add additional time to the workouts when they’re here, because at some point there’s going to be some type of competition. It’s never-ending, but that’s what makes them who they are.”
With J.J. in his 10th NFL season, he is needed to be smarter about the best way he trains. While Derek and T.J. are in a position to commute the best way J.J. was in a position to up to now, J.J’s spouse, Kealia, stated that has needed to change.
“[All three] would go until they were completely exhausted and get it right, and I think as J.J.’s gotten older, he’s realized that’s not the smartest thing to do,” Kealia stated.
Because J.J. is in Houston and may’t compete in particular person with T.J. and Derek proper now, the back-and-forth continues in group chats. Recently, the three brothers and some different associates from highschool had been arguing about which Pewaukee High soccer group of the previous would win in the event that they took the gamers from their senior-year groups and put them on a area proper now.
“I’ll give you insight on how stupid our group chat is,” J.J. started, earlier than admitting that Derek’s group got here out on prime as a result of he and T.J. had been each on that squad.
The group chat is especially busy on Sundays. Midway via the 2018 season, when J.J. and T.J. had been going backwards and forwards up the sacks leaderboard, the texts had been extra aggressive than standard.
Every week, J.J. and T.J. stored tabs on every others’ stats, both by checking field scores after their very own video games or, in the event that they had been fortunate, by watching the opposite’s recreation. Or in some cases, from musician Kendrick Lamar.
While it is aggressive between the brothers, J.J. says they’re additionally “each other’s biggest fans.”
“We each root for each other as much as we can, whenever we can,” J.J. stated in 2018. “I want to see him get as many sacks as he can possibly get, just the same way he wants to see me. We compete, and there’s definitely a little bit of underlying competition there, but at the end of the day, if he gets 500 sacks, I’d be happy as hell.”
A particular Sunday
That brotherly camaraderie is on pause this week as the 2 youngest Watts get able to tackle J.J.
Not solely has it by no means occurred for the Watt brothers, who’ve practically six years between J.J. and T.J., however it’s very uncommon in an NFL recreation. Last season, the Edmunds brothers (Terrell and Trey for the Steelers and Tremaine for the Bills) confronted one another. According to analysis by ESPN Stats & Information, that was the primary recognized occasion of three brothers showing in the identical NFL recreation since 1927, when Joe, Cobb and Bill Rooney did it for the Duluth Eskimos.
J.J. and Derek received to play on the identical area in 2019 when the Texans performed in opposition to Derek’s Chargers, and J.J. and T.J. had been lined up for a Christmas Eve matchup in 2017 in Houston earlier than J.J. broke his leg earlier within the yr. Derek and T.J. performed in opposition to one another the previous two seasons when the Chargers and Steelers performed, attending to face off by advantage of taking part in totally different sides of the ball.
That’s what makes Sunday particular.
“It’s unbelievable,” J.J. stated. “It truly is incredible. Just to have all of us playing at Wisconsin was really cool. Just to have all of us playing in the NFL was really cool. To play against another brother was cool. Now, to have all of us on the field at the same time in the same game, it really doesn’t get any better than that.”
Under regular circumstances, John and Connie can be at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon of their half-Steelers, half-Texans jerseys. They can be sitting with Gabriella and Logan, and perhaps Kealia and Rhodes if the Chicago Red Stars teammates might get to Pittsburgh for the sport. But due to the continuing pandemic, the proud dad and mom plan to look at on the lounge couch at their residence in Pewaukee.
“It’s going to be a special day no matter what happens,” John stated. “Like Connie said, you hate to see one have to lose, but hopefully they all have a good game and come out of it injury-free and it’s something we can treasure for the rest of our lives. And them, too.”
Rhodes stated even earlier than Derek signed with the Steelers, he, J.J. and T.J. “always talked about it in kind of what-ifs and a dream, and how cool it would be to all be on the same field.”
“They’ve never really had that opportunity, so now, this past year when it came out on the upcoming fall schedule, I think they were just so excited to finally have it be reality and ever since have been looking forward to it,” Rhodes stated.
With two sacks Sunday, J.J. would turn out to be simply the fourth participant to file 100 sacks in his first 115 video games. But naturally, T.J. and Derek do not wish to see him hit that milestone at Heinz Field.
“I think J.J.’s got enough hardware, Defensive Player of the Years — he’s not very shy of telling people he has those awards, especially me,” T.J. stated. “I think he doesn’t need this one.”