‘He Had to Work Really Hard for It’

Waukesha firefighters root for J.J. Watt as he is selected 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Houston Texans were contemplating their draft choice as the TV screen flashed to a scene of Pewaukee’s J.J. Watt on the phone.

That was it. That was when the firefighters at Waukesha Fire Station No. 1 knew that their co-worker’s son was going to the NFL.

“This is better than Minnesota or Chicago,” said Firefighter Mike Gartzke.

Watt, 22, a defensive end out of University of Wisconsin-Madison, was the 11th pick overall Thursday night as he will be heading to Texas.

Battalion Chief Joe Vitale quickly sent a text message congratulating Watt’s dad, Waukesha Fire Lt. John Watt.

“I think it is awesome,” Vitale said. “J.J. is a great kid, they are a great family. … It is unbelievable, and it is not the Vikings.”

Watt was projected to be drafted into the NFL in the first round. Some predictions had him heading to the Jacksonville Jaguars, others to the Washington Redskins or the Dallas Cowboys.

“He has too much class to go to Dallas,” Paramedic Mike Whitehouse said with a laugh.

As the Cowboys came up for the pick, the firefighters in the room sat up and watched intently as they had heard the possibilities of Watt going to Dallas. There was a little bit of relief as Dallas passed over Watt for Tyron Smith, an offensive lineman.

“I’d love to see him get picked in the top 10,” Vitale said. “But Dallas?”

Watt’s father’s co-workers were excited to watch as Watt was handed a ceremonial No. 1 jersey for the Houston Texans. Whitehouse thought Watt's early draft selection may have had something to do with his positive attitude and “manners.” All the firefighters at Station No. 1 spoke highly of the young football star.

“I think he is very humble about the whole thing,” Gartzke said. “He had to work really hard for it. He doesn’t fit the profile of the typical NFL guy.”


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