‘Dreaming Big, Working Hard’
Watt shares philosophy for success at Business Alliance event

By Matt Masterson - Freeman Staff

April 3, 2014

Pewaukee native and NFL star J.J. Watt shakes hands with Suzanne Kelley, president of the Waukesha County Business Alliance, after his speech Wednesday at the
Brookfield Suites Hotel and Convention Center.      

Submitted photo

BROOKFIELD - Pewaukee-native and NFL defensive end J.J. Watt spoke to over 250 businessmen and women at the Brookfield Suites Hotel and Convention Center Wednesday as part of the Waukesha County Business Alliance’s AMP! series.

Watt spoke about integrating his personal motto, “Dream Big Work Hard,” into the business world, as well as finding motivation from unusual places and surrounding himself with the right people. He also talked about the importance of remembering your roots and the place you came from.

“I don't care how big you get, how famous you get or how successful you get," Watt said. "If you forget how you got there, you'll lose it all.”

The 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year said he still conducts his off-season workouts at Pewaukee High School.

Parents describe Watt's charitable organization

The former University of Wisconsin football star also runs a charitable organization, the Justin J. Watt Foundation, which provides funding for middle schools so they can offer after-school athletic activities for their students.

“It all came about because as a sophomore (at UW), J.J. heard a story about a kid who hadn't been participating in after-school sports,” Watt's father, John, said. “His school lost its funding, so he came home and subsequently got himself in a little bit of trouble. J.J. said, ‘Well, I think there is something I can do about this.’”

Watt started the foundation as a junior at UW, and in the four years since, it has raised nearly $1 million - over half of which has already been put back into schools.

The foundation also runs an annual 5k run/walk fundraiser, which will be held at Waukesha County Technical College on June 2. In the three years it has been run, the event has grown from 100 to 750 participants and has helped raise over $40,000.

“Why should (kids) get shut down before they even get a chance? They should not be hindered by what the schools cannot provide,” said Watt's mother, Connie, who runs the foundation. “We just want to make sure that if we can do something about it, we definitely want to take the opportunity.”

The foundation has given money to dozens of middle schools and organizations in Wisconsin - including over $40,000 to the Milwaukee Public Schools for football and wrestling equipment - but has also spread the wealth to Illinois, Alabama and Texas, where Watt plays for the Houston Texans.


Kelley praises NFL star

According to Suzanne Kelley, president of the Waukesha County Business Alliance, Watt's speech drew the largest audience of the year for the monthly series.

“He has messages that resonate with business people as well as the younger generation about working hard, commitment and ethics," she said. "It is great to get a local guy with his background and his caliber, to have him bring his message to our organization.”



Email: mmasterson@conleynet.com