Right away it was obvious when he saw the photo, he loved it. This one epitomized so much about J.J. Watt.
The Houston Texans’ star pass-rusher J.J. Watt was dressed in his uniform with white pants and a blue jersey. Photographer Art Streiber asked J.J. Watt to start facing the back of the room and then slowly turn, holding a lasso in his right hand, wearing a cowboy hat and a big Texas belt buckle with his name on it.
What excited Watt wasn’t the perfectly symmetrical straight-on shot from the same part of the shoot. This one was a little more jaunty. Watt’s body tilted toward the right as if in motion, he was looking down and the cowboy hat covered his eyes.
“Old school,” Watt said, and asked for a copy.
Watt is a football player with an old-school work ethic, and he’s one who cares about how he presents himself. No, he wasn’t interested in putting on big Texas hair in the form of blonde wigs, or looking like a steer wearing cut-out horns and a nose ring. Watt was interested in the more classic photo options presented to him. At the same time, the tilt was just as representative of Watt, a player who doesn’t fit into the usual molds of what a 3-4 defensive end should be.
That photo in particular didn’t make it into the issue. A similar, but more upright, shot wound up in this photo gallery. On one of the two covers of ESPN The Magazine this week, Watt appears with a toothpick in his teeth that is adorned with a Texas state flag on the end. (Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on the other cover).
The story by Michael J. Mooney, which accompanies his photo spread, ponders: Can Watt become a Texas legend? The goal of the photo shoot: an iconic image that answered “yes.”