Houston Texans: Is J.J. Watt Most Popular Houston Athlete Ever?

By Mike Kerns
Thomas Campbell – USA TODAY Sports

I saw a tweet the other day that asked what, at the time, seemed like a foolish question. However, I received quite a bit of push back on it when I said that I thought it was ridiculous.

The question was if J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans was the most popular Houston athlete in the history of the city.

Something I have learned in the age of new social media is that you are only as good as your last game and everything that happened prior to the explosion of Twitter doesn’t count. For example, if Blake Griffin has a nasty slam dunk in a meaningless game in January, it immediately gets asked now if it is the greatest dunk in the history of the sport. That’s just the age we live in now.

Back to the question on Watt and why I think it is absurd that I base everything like that on sample size. Watt, who is definitely getting the rock star treatment these days (I mean, even my wife is a big fan and she is indifferent about football), has been here for two seasons. And while he did have arguably the greatest single season for a 3-4 defensive end maybe ever, is he really above some of the icons of sports Houston has produced?

I’m sure hall of fame athletes such as Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan and Hakeem Olajuwon might have something to say about that.

Some of the feedback I got in disagreement was that Hakeem never had a Justin Bieber kind of following from the ladies like Watt does, Ryan never had people who weren’t into sports know who he was, Campbell never won anything, etc. But you have to remember that sports coverage was different during their time. There was no Twitter, Facebook or a 24-hour news cycle.

Olajuwon could have run for mayor in the late 90’s and won with over 99 percent of the vote. He is the only athlete to ever win a title for this town and his popularity was something that was immeasurable. If Twitter or a 24-hour news cycle had existed during his time, this wouldn’t even be up for debate.

If the question was, “will J.J. Watt be the most popular Houston athlete ever by the time he retires?” Well, then I could certainly see an argument there.

While I am just as big of a fan of Watt as the rest of the city is, I just think this question is a tad bit premature.

If the guy continues to do what he does and ends his career wearing a yellow jacket, then we can reassess. Even if he doesn’t win a title, he does enough to be well liked by the community and even the most casual of NFL fans.

In the end, the only way I see Watt ever passing Olajuwon in Houston sports history popularity is if he wins a championship or two.

After all, this is football and Texas we’re talking about here.


Mike Kerns is a Houston Texans writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter, “Like” his page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also subscribe to his Texans podcast on iTunes.

You May Also Like