During the 2012 season, when the J.J. Watt phenomenon was just beginning to explode, there was an odd moment during a press conference.
Fans had been carrying signs that said "J.J. Swatt" on it, a nod to the frequency with which Watt batted quarterbacks' passes. A reporter asked Watt about that. Watt didn't smile. Instead, he said that his name means a lot to him, and that he's not crazy about people altering it in any way.
I didn't understand what the big deal was then, but after watching the "E:60" feature on Watt, I do. The full piece will air tonight at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.
In it, Watt begins to cry on camera when discussing the day his grandfather died in February of 2014.
"I just tried to tell him how much we appreciate him," Watt says through tears. "He was always there. His dad was an alcoholic and he wasn't proud of the family name that he was handed down. So he worked his whole life to make his family name proud and to make it a name that meant something. So now, that's the one thing I remember him saying is how proud he was of what my brothers and I were able to do for our family name. So that's why we go out there and try to live our life the right way and work hard and do things the way we do things. Because we want to make our family proud.
"That's what I told him on the last day. When I was holding his hand. I told him, 'We're going to make your name proud."
Grandpa Watt was a big part of Watt's childhood. Here's an excerpt from the piece I wrote about Watt that ran in the Houston Chronicle.
Grandpa Watt’s right suspender is red and has “Pirates and Badgers” emblazoned on it. The left one says “Grandpa.” His daughter-in-law had those made for him before J.J. was drafted. J.J.’s brother, Derek, plays at Wisconsin, and T.J., his youngest brother, has committed to play there as well.
Watt’s grandfather was one of the biggest and loudest fans of the Pewaukee Pirates until his health made it difficult for him to keep that up. He used to drive J.J. and his brothers to practice and watch all of them. Even in the rain, he would drive his car up a road only he was allowed to use and turn his lights on to watch.
Because of skin cancer, Grandpa Watt has to keep his head covered, so he wears a Houston Texans 2011 division championship hat. The elder Watt used to be a Packers fan but isn’t anymore.