T.J. Watt said he contemplated going the ‘firefighter’ route after knee injury

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers comes onto the field to warmup before a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers comes onto the field to warmup before a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at Acrisure Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

T.J. Watt was completely candid in his lengthy interview with The Pivot Podcast. The Steelers star talked about almost giving up on football at one point. 

Recently, Pittsburgh Steelers star defender, T.J. Watt had a lengthy interview with The Pivot Podcast in which he candidly shared many interesting tidbits about his past. Former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder, and Fred Taylor drilled Watt with some deep and personal questions.

One after the other, Watt managed to give a seemingly perfect response to everything they asked as he exuberated with humility and professionalism. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year talked about his upbringing and even admitted that he can’t compare himself to his older brother, J.J. However, one of the most candid statements Watt made had to do with doubt concerning his potential football career.

In his early days at Wisconsin, T.J. Watt talked about how discouraging it was to deal with one knee injury after the next. Later in the interview, Crowder revisited Watt’s injury history, which included knee cap dislocations and multiple knee surgeries, and asked him if there was a time when he did doubt his future football career. Here’s how Watt responded:

"Oh, of course. Those college years were the toughest for me. I remember distinctly after one of the times my knee popped out, I went to the locker room and just dropped to my knees and called my dad. It was crazy, because he knows when we are practicing, right? So I called him and he knew it was in the middle of practice and he knew exactly what it was. I was like ‘Dad, I don’t know, man. This keeps happening to me. I don’t understand. I know you’re a firefighter. I might have to go that route.’"

T.J. continued by saying that his father encouraged him to take a second and not make any decisions ‘in the moment.’ He told him to ‘let everything process and figure it out.’

Obviously, Watt ultimately chose to stick with football, but he chalks that up to the incredible support system that he has had with his family his whole life. His father was a firefighter, and I’m sure T.J. Would have poured his heart into that profession had he gone that route. I am thankful for all of the heroes keeping us safe out there, but as a Steelers fan, I’m certainly glad that Watt persevered and stuck with football.

What would a hypothetical Steelers team look like without Watt

T.J. Watt didn’t expand on how seriously he contemplated pursuing a new career path or if his words simply came out of a moment of frustration, but I’d hate to think of what a Pittsburgh Steelers team would look like without him.

Let’s explore that for a minute. Hypothetically, let’s pretend that stealing Watt with the 30th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft was not an option. Then what? In addition to having a need for an edge defender to play alongside an up-and-down Bud Dupree and a 39-year-old James Harrison, the Steelers seemed to be eying a linebacker to pair with Ryan Shazier.

Reuben Foster was a player who reportedly had a lot of interest in drafting. He was ultimately selected one pick after Watt by the San Francisco 49ers. Foster had issues with suspensions and was arrested for marijuana charges. When it was all said and done, he didn’t even last two full seasons in the NFL.

While Shazier did end up suffering a career-ending spinal injury, selecting Foster instead of Watt may have forced Vince Williams to miss his window of opportunity with the team as well, as his best seasons came following the 2017 draft.

Related Story. T.J. Watt praises his brother, thinks J.J. was better in his prime. light

Obviously, we don’t know how things could have played out in a 2017 NFL Draft that didn’t include T.J. Watt, but the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year was clearly the best choice they could have made. Steelers fans can be thankful that he didn’t give up on his football career when he was at his lowest point in college.