As the only franchise he's ever played for floundered around him, J.J. Watt has been tactical about how he's voiced his desire to leave the Texans. He's never actually said, "I want a trade from the Texans" or "I want to be released." Instead, he's offered quotes like, "I'm not looking to rebuild" and "I'm looking to go after a championship," neither of which the Texans are in a position to do as Watt enters what even he's admitted are the final years of his NFL career.
In the aftermath of what was likely his last game in Houston yesterday, Watt offered another veiled response to his future with the organization. Like the statements voiced during the year, this one paints the picture of a man on his way out. Only this time, he also mentions a city he's become synonymous with for his transcendent contributions on and off the field.
Asked if he considered this being his last game with Houston, here's what Watt said:
This part stood out.
""I think this city knows, I hope they know how I feel about them and how thankful I am. I've tried to do everything I possibly can and give everything I possibly have.""
Watt's stoic gaze and monotone voice mask the emotions of an athlete as synonymous with one city as any in the world. And at some point in the future, when fans are able to celebrate him in person, Watt will have a more fitting farewell, one filled with tributes and tears and adulation for a man who has done more for Houston off the field than on it.
Beyond his defensive MVPs and nearly singlehandedly lifting that franchise to respectability, Watt raised over $37 million for Houston after it was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That money led to over 1,100 homes being rebuilt, childcare centers being restored and food being provided for those most deeply impacted. His philanthropic giving extends far beyond that one-time effort, but he will always be remembered for carrying to torch for that city in it's rebuild.
Watt has engrained himself within the fabric of Houston's community and, while this wasn't a formal goodbye, his expressionless hope for the city he loved to know how much he loved and gave them spoke volumes. He came of age in that city, spending years 22 to 31 of his life there, and now it appears that time is up. The formal farewells will have to wait. For now it's just see you later.