HEART OF TEXANS
The Houston defensive end has 9½ sacks and eight passes defensed, and he was AFC Defensive Player of the Month in September.
DAN PATRICK:Do you ever have conversations with quarterbacks during games?
J.J. WATT: I don't talk too much on the field—a little bit here and there if someone tries to provoke me. I try to let my play do the talking.
DP:How does someone provoke you?
JW: You do something dirty, you do something late or you talk to me first.
DP:When's the last time someone provoked you?
JW: Against Tennessee a guy ripped my helmet off. I wasn't too pleased with that.
JW: I got two sacks in the game. It worked out well for us.
DP:Have you ever apologized for a hard hit?
JW: No, not unless it's illegal. I'm not going to apologize for playing the game.
DP:When was the last time someone called you Justin?
JW: [Laughs.] Probably my mom. She was probably mad at me. I haven't heard it in a while.
DP:Does she go with your full name, Justin James Watt, if she's really mad?
JW: If I hear Justin James, I'm going to leave the house.
DP:How long have you been J.J.?
JW: Ever since I remember. [I have brothers], D.J. and my youngest brother, T.J. It makes it tough on my grandpa. He gets the names confused a lot.
DP:Why did you leave Central Michigan after your sophomore year to deliver pizzas?
JW: I was playing tight end. I was a starter. I caught only eight passes. You're not going to make it to the NFL catching eight passes. There was talk of moving me to offensive tackle. I took a gamble. Either it was going to work out or it was going to fail. My parents had confidence in me. I had confidence in myself. It all worked out extremely well.
DP:Will you ever get in at tight end? Maybe at the goal line?
JW: I wish. That's not in the plans right now.
DP:Could you have been another Rob Gronkowski?
JW: I guess. [With] a little bit less partying, I suppose.
DP:The best team in the NFL right now is ... ?
JW: The Houston Texans.
DP:And the second best team is ... ?
JW: I think the Atlanta Falcons are playing well. They have a good squad, and Matt Ryan is playing extremely good football.
DP:Are you friendly with one of your rivals for the sack lead, the Packers' Clay Matthews?
JW: I really don't know him off the field. I obviously have a lot of respect for his game.
DP:Would your mother let you grow your hair like that?
JW: I bet she'd like it, but it takes so much time. Then you have to go through the ugly phase, from short hair to long hair, the in-between phase where nobody looks good. I don't think I could do it.
DP:Have you ever had a mullet?
JW: Yes. When I was really young. There are pictures of me when I was three or four years old with a mullet. It's not a look I'm going back to anytime soon.
This week takes on to see who has the better tailgating scene. Go to SI.com/grillseekers to learn who comes out on top.
When I [first arrived], there were only three things left in a very barren office—three national championship trophies. I think our athletic director left them here on purpose to make sure I understood the expectation level."
—WILL MUSCHAMP, second-year Florida football coach
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told me that he knew sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller was special as soon as he saw his team at spring practice. "He's ridiculous," Meyer said. "He does things that I've never seen athletes do. I've had two [players like that]: Percy Harvin and Braxton Miller." ... NBC and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock explained the key to Notre Dame's 7--0 start. "Their front seven is as good as anybody's outside of Alabama," Mayock said. "They're an SEC-type front. They're big, they're fast, they're aggressive." ... Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is befuddled and impressed by Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. "I don't understand his style," Hasselbeck said. "If you asked quarterbacks around the league, they would all be perplexed by his ability to break tackles." ... I asked Falcons receiver Roddy White why tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is off to such a great start, is planning to retire after this season. "I have no clue," White said. "I'm still asking him. I just figure if they offer him enough money, he'll come back."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (HELMETS)
JOHN BIEVER (WATT)
BOB ROSATO (WHITE)
ROBIN MARCHANT/GETTY IMAGES FOR ESPN (HASSELBECK)
DAVID STLUKA/AP (MAYOCK)
AL TIELEMANS (MEYER)