With the prompt of the most respected opposing player of all time, I tried to think about players within the Bears’ division.
After all, the Bears play three teams every single year, with every other team being rotated into their schedule. There are certainly some players in the NFC North I respect, both on and off the field.
However, there’s a player I respect who has only played against the Bears three times: J.J. Watt.
Admittedly, Watt’s production against the Bears hasn’t necessarily been all that impressive; in his three games against them, he has just five tackles and no sacks. However, he proved to be a difficult player to block each time, requiring plenty of attention from Chicago’s offensive line.
Watt has more so earned my respect for his play in other games, as well as his work off the field. In his prime, he was a freak of nature whose incredible power, quickness off the ball, pass-rushing arsenal and sheer tenacity made him borderline unblockable every single down. He played incredibly hard on a consistent basis, using his extensive array of hand techniques to shed blocks and penetrate the backfield.
From 2012 to 2015, Watt finished with an unreal 69 sacks in 64 games for the Texans. Season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons saw him unable to reach such heights as he did as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but he was able to put together 16 sacks in 2018. Though not the game-changing player he was in his prime anymore, Watt is still a force to be reckoned with and projects as a productive pass-rusher for the Cardinals in 2021.
Beyond his dominance on the field, I also have respect for Watt as a person. His efforts to aid the Houston community during his time with the Texans was remarkable. After the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Watt raised funds to help those affected by the natural disaster, using his platform to raise over $37 million for Houstonians in need. His work through his Justin J. Watt Foundation has helped provide Houston children with safe after-school activities and an outlet to build teamwork and communication skills through athletics.
Watt has used his platform and his status as an affluent member of society to help aid those in mourning. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, he invited children from the school to the Houston area and played football with them at what is now named NRG Stadium. He makes numerous trips to hospitals to visit afflicted children and has made it a priority to use his superhero-like status to make a personal impact in kids’ lives.
Plus, considering how hit-or-miss athletes can be hosting Saturday Night Live, Watt actually did a pretty good job, showcasing a sense of affability, comedic timing, and a down-to-earth personality that some superstar athletes are unable to express.
A first-ballot Hall of Famer with a heart of gold, Watt has made a major impact both on and off the field. For that, he has my respect.
Now it’s your turn.
Who is your most respected non-Bears player of all-time?