Connie Watt with her sons
T.J. (left), J.J. and Derek
Photo by TM Photography
Connie Watt was
the youngest of five girls in her family ó and she knew what she
wanted when she was starting her own. "I prayed when I was
pregnant that I would have boys, and thatís what I got," she
says. Not only did Connie and John Watt of Pewaukee have three sons,
theyíre all superb athletes. Today, their oldest son, J.J., is a
defensive end for the Houston Texans, Derek is a fullback for the
Badgers and T.J. is quarterback at Pewaukee High School. T.J. has been
recruited by the Badgers for 2013, and will be playing tight end next
The Watts saw
the potential in their boys at a young age and their love for sports,
especially football. "They take to all sports. They are all
natural athletes," says Watt.
The kids started
out playing select hockey. Because the boys played on separate teams,
the family never traveled together, so they turned in their skates for
the gridiron. "It was a natural progression; they all excelled in
it," she says.
season wasnít enough for these avid athletes. When they werenít
playing football, the boys were involved in track and baseball. During
high school, J.J. was recruited for both baseball and football
scholarships. But football was his true love, says Watt.
Connie and John
could see the possibility of their sons playing beyond high school,
but knew they would need additional training to reach the level it
takes to move on. They began training at Next Level in Waukesha, a
training facility for athletes to get in condition to tryout for the
The couple was
also aware it takes much more than drills at a training facility to
exceed: It takes a commitment from the entire family. The Watts were
firm believers in eating healthy, home-cooked meals and plenty of
Healthy food is
always on the table, despite both parents working ≠ó John is a
Pewaukee firefighter and Connie is director and vice president at
Independent Inspections Ltd. Inc. in Waukesha and director of the
Justin J. Watt Foundation, which helps children participate in
after-school athletic programs in Wisconsin and Houston.
But an abundance
of home-cooked meals is just one factor when it comes to raising a
family of elite athletes. The college recruiting process was taxing
and the NCAA has strict guidelines in order to qualify. Both J.J. and
Derek were recruited by at least 18 schools. "Itís incredibly
stressful," says Watt.
J.J. started his
college career at Central Michigan, but transferred to UW-Madison
where he always wanted to play. He took the gamble and was a walk-on
for the team. He missed the original tryouts due to mononucleosis.
"I told him his whole life that itís character building,"
in his brotherís footsteps and is a sophomore this year, playing at
Camp Randall Stadium. His brother, T.J., will join him next year.
When the weekend
rolls around in the fall, Connie and John hit the road. Friday nights
are dedicated to watching T.J. play for the Pewaukee Pirates. "We
would never miss a high school game," she says ó no matter if
the team is at home or away.
morning, they trade in their red and black for red and white to head
to the Badger game. They plan on attending most of Derekís games
Last year they
were in the stands for most of J.J.ís Houston Texan games, but
logistically will not be able to make them all this season. "It
was nothing for us to get in the car and drive through the night to
get to J.J.ís games," she says.
the logistical nightmare and that itís important for them to be at
the Badger games this year, where Derek will be a starter, she says.
football players, the Watts do have their traditions. "We always
get there early enough to watch them warm up," says John Watt.
"Connie always goes down and gives them a hug on the sidelines
before the game."
One thing Connie
Watt has also learned over the years is to stock up on hand and foot
warmers. Placing the warmers on your neck is a tip she shares with
fellow football parents.
season is really exhausting, but itís a good time to be busy,"
she says. Neither her or John would have it any other way.