John Watt drew the short straw to play quarterback during his final Christmas appearance in the Watt family football game.
“The show must go on,” he said cryptically before lining up behind center in a tradition that has united the family ever since the boys were young.
“It started as harmless fun meant to feed the boys passion for this great game,” he explained from his hospital bed after the game with his sons, NFL players J.J., Derek, and college player T.J., holding his hand.
The Watt family has increased in notoriety on the football field, but many are oblivious to the roots of their success. It all started with a passionate and supportive family. Their father, John, had nurtured their talents early on, by giving them opportunities to demonstrate those talents during family holiday gatherings
Not every member of the Watt family was as gifted as J.J. Derek and T.J. Derek recalls one of their cousins, Timmy, who had always been a sickly youth, and the inspiration he drew from him.
“One year Timmy lined up at quarterback, it was 4th and one. He had always had breathing problems, and I remember telling him at the time ‘Do you really want to do this?’… Actually I was yelling at him more like ’YOU REALLY WANNA DO THIS!!!’ but he still hiked the ball” he said.
“Everyone was rooting for him. He thought he would run a quarterback sneak, he almost got the ball over the line…unfortunately,” Derek began to tear up, “he didn’t make it…”
Derek looked at the ceiling, trying to stop the tears, “you can’t just bring that weak ass shit into my house…” he said emotionally. Derek, paused for a few minutes collecting himself.
“If Timmy had converted that 4th down, it would have been the first first down conversion in the last 15 years of the Watt family football game. Sadly, immediately after the game, Timmy’s bronchitis developed into paralysis below the neck and we pulled the plug a few days later. He will be missed.”
Holidays for the Watts have been unlucky, bittersweet affairs, where football is combined with family. Luckily for the Watt boys they have been fortunate enough to avoid the bad luck associated with these gatherings.
“There was Aunt Julip in 2005, she blew out her knee. The doctor said that it had something to do with taking a heavy hit at the knee. Actually, it was because she tried to catch a pass across the middle on a bad route,” J.J. explained.
“There was Uncle Steve who at the family reunion” (this story has been removed by recommendation of the Watt family lawyer pending an injury lawsuit).
“And of course there was Grandpa, rest his soul, we thought he started having a stroke on the field, but really the entire left side of his body collapsed after he tried to punt the ball on 4th and 35.” (Watt’s list of family members continue but had to be cut for space).
J.J. walked into the dining room where his family was drinking their pureed turkey dinner through straws, he rolled his nephew, Brenden, away from the table, and took the straw out of his mouth.
“Brenden, a nice man is here to talk to you about your last football game…blink once if you remember your last football game.”
He blinked rapidly.
“He always gets a little emotional when he is reminiscing about that day,” J.J. said.
“Do you remember how much fun it was when you tried to run that obvious play action fake?” asked J.J.
Brenden did not blink, but stared straight ahead for a few minutes until J.J. broke the silence, “isn’t family great?”
The Watts are very grateful to their family but realize it is not just about them
“In the last few years our family has lost the ability to play football. Their bodies have all started to fail, they cannot walk anymore,” J.J. said.
Fortunately, J.J. is not about to let the family tradition die off. “What if we brought our love of football into other families as well? That is why we started the ’J.J., Derek, and TJ, JACK, your family.’ We included our father, John, in the name of the foundation,” he said.
“We want to play a pickup game with one lucky family from across the country every holiday. We want our families to collide in order to raise awareness for acute bronchitis and its tragic side effects. We will do this by playing backyard pickup games of full contact football against entire families with average to no athletic ability. Everybody wins.”
The Watt Foundation already has a way to signify support for their cause, “We have everyone who plays against us wear hospital bracelets to raise awareness for debilitating injury. It is also a good way to know who has helped our foundation… just like my nephew Brenden here.”
J.J. then lifted Brenden’s limp arm to show the hospital bracelet, then brought his other hand to Brenden’s to give himself a high five.
“We do this for you Brenden.”
When asked about the results of a typical game J.J. responded, “We haven’t had any touchdowns yet, only safeties, and typically the score is 80-0.”