Watt brothers return to Madison, talk golf, football and their love for Wisconsin

VERONA, Wis. — The Watt brothers are all in the NFL but the trio still interact with each other in much the same way they likely did growing up. That was on display Friday morning at the American Family Insurance Championship as JJ, Derek and TJ met the media and started arguing about where each would sit on the podium. It continued as they teased each other about a round of golf they played Thursday.

Though JJ won in golf, all three have been big winners since their time with the Wisconsin football program. JJ was a first-round pick of the Houston Texans in 2011, has won three NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, has spent time and money in giving back to the community and recently got engaged to women’s soccer player Kealia Ohai.

Derek has spent the last four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers after being taken in the sixth round of the 2015 draft and just became a father for the first time.

And TJ has amassed 20 sacks in his first two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers after they took him in the first round in 2017.

All that success has made it difficult for the three to be in the same place at the same time, which made this weekend unique.

“I think we all just love this place so much and it’s awesome to get to spend it together,” TJ said. “I think we really cherish these moments.”

The brothers were only around the course for a few hours but got some work in. They took part in announcing golfers as they came up to the 18th green and then walked through the lines and thanked fans and volunteers.

“We’ve got a lot of people back here that we love and we miss when we’re not here,” Derek said. “(We) just love being back in Wisconsin.”

One of them, JJ, will return later this summer in a professional capacity. The Texans will take part in joint practices with the Green Bay Packers during training camp in the lead up to the preseason opener for both teams on Aug. 8. For JJ, it will be his first chance to play at Lambeau Field after being injured when Houston played there in 2016. But it’s the practice aspect that he seems truly excited about.

“I went to one day of training camp (as a kid) and I watched from the fence,” JJ said. “I went over to the parking lot and threw a t-shirt over for autographs. I did all of that and I watched them bike over. I’ll never forget looking through that fence and just thinking to myself, those guys do this for a living. That to me was one of the coolest things in the world. I literally couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that they got to play football for a living.”

The defensive end pointed to that moment as one that led him down the path to where he is today.

“For me to go back there and to practice there and to be able to play in Lambeau, I think it all comes full circle for me,” JJ said. “It’s going to be a really, really cool experience. I’m more excited that we’re playing a preseason game there than I am a regular season game because I get to do the practice experience and kind of live out that dream that I had as a kid.”