J.J. Watt describes the painstaking steps he took to conceal his free agency


For weeks, sports media clung to J.J. Watt’s every tweet, desperately searching for any nugget that might enlighten us about his next team. Then Monday, the former Defensive Player of the Year threw us all a curve ball, announcing his intention to sign with the Arizona Cardinals, reuniting Watt with his former Texans teammate, DeAndre Hopkins.

We followed every bread crumb trail, feverishly dissecting tweets about mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell, for those who haven’t thought about photosynthesis since high school) and obsessing over a nonexistent Peloton bike. Yet somehow, Watt still duped us, a near-impossible feat in the encroaching age of social media, where nothing stays hidden.

How did he do it? Well it wasn’t by snapping his fingers. Much effort went into concealing the veteran’s free agency with Watt and his overly-prepared camp leaving nothing to chance. The 31-year-old elaborated on the remarkably thorough process Tuesday during his introductory press conference with the Cardinals.

“A few days earlier we had known the final four or five teams. So I had shirts for each team ordered just in case the situation arose,” said Watt, who was given the green light to wear his preferred No. 99 after the family of Cardinals great Marshall Goldberg gave permission to have his number un-retired. “But we were trying to keep this so quiet that I didn’t trust the packaging facility to not see my name on the package and put two and two together. So I had my brother’s high school friend use his credit card and his address to ship the shirts to his house and he brought them over to my house. So shout out to Doug and Joe for making this happen.”

Now that’s some scheme. Is covering your tracks by enlisting a family friend to sign and deliver t-shirts in a secretive back-alley exchange a bit paranoid? Probably. But it made for a fun anecdote and, more importantly, Watt was able to deliver the news himself, an increasingly rare luxury in today's gossip-obsessed media landscape where scoops leak to reporters like the persistent drip of a busted faucet.

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