Coming from a family of football players, redshirt junior T.J. Watt is confident in his ability to help lead this year’s Wisconsin defense.
The 6’5″, 243-pound outside linebacker committed to Wisconsin on April 1, 2012. Though he joined the team as a tight end, he was moved to linebacker by head coach Paul Chryst in the summer of 2015.
Watt was a three-star ESPN, Rivals and Scout recruit out of Pewaukee High School. ESPN ranked him the 28th tight end, Scout the 44th and Rivals ranked him the 9th top recruit in Wisconsin. Watt dabbled in a little bit of everything in high school. He threw for 527 yards and seven touchdowns, rushed for 554 yards and nine touchdowns, had 42 tackles and five sacks and made 27 catches for 505 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2014, Watt suffered a knee injury, which prevented him from playing. His road to recovery was long at times and required diligence, but he has found his way back to the playing field. In 2015, Watt made eight tackles with 1.5 for loss in limited opportunities.
With Joe Schobert graduated and playing for the Cleveland Browns, Watt is expected to replace Schobert at outside linebacker opposite senior Vince Biegel.
Watt will need to be prepared both physically and mentally. The pressure may intensify, but Watt feels ready thanks to several mentors that have helped him along the way.
“Vince Biegel is probably a big mentor to me just because I know it is important to gel with your counterpart out there on the field,” Watt said. “T.J. [Edwards] has helped me a lot in the film room and on the field on certain schemes. Off the field I would just say my two brothers because I always talk to them on a daily basis.”
Watt says both his teammates and his older brothers, J.J. and Derek, have taught him intricacies of the game and how to prepare for the different stages of the football season in spring ball, summer training, fall camp, and finally the season itself.
“It’s a long process,” Watt explained. “You’ve just got to keep going, keep grinding, getting better. Everybody in the country is going through exactly what you’re going through. You’ve just got to take it one day at a time and get better each day.”
Watt is confident in his linebacking corps despite the loss for the time being of inside linebacker T.J. Edwards. He said not much has changed because the defense was already running a three-man rotation. Watt continued, explaining that inside linebackers Jack Cichy and Chris Orr are stepping up in their roles and the team is “picking up where we left off.”
“We interact really well together,” Watt said. “We gel really well. Off the field as well. We just spend a lot of time together through camp. It’s a really great group of guys.”