NFL star JJ Watt offers to pay for funeral of fan’s grandfather

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JJ Watt during his days with the Houston Texans.   (Getty Images)
JJ Watt during his days with the Houston Texans. (Getty Images)

When Houston Texans fan Jennifer Simpson tweeted on Wednesday night that she was prepared to sell a pair of JJ Watt Reebok sneakers and an old Watt replica jersey to help pay for her grandfather’s funeral, she got a response from an unlikely source: Watt himself.

“Don’t sell your shoes and jersey,” Watt tweeted. “We’ll help with the funeral.”

Ms Simpson, whose Twitter bio claims that she is a 26-year-old teacher, was delighted.

“I freaking love you man,” Ms Simpson replied. I”t’s been a hard year for me, and this last month has been hard since the death. I wish I could tell you my story.”

Ms Simpson is a fan of the Houston Texans, the NFL team Watt became a star with after they made him a first round draft pick in 2011. Watt would spend the next nine years in Houston, being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times and earning five All Pro selections.

Watt left the Texans to join the Arizona Cardinals in 2021, but he remains beloved in Houston both for his dominant defensive play and his presence in the community; a presence for which Watt was awarded the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2017 after he worked to raise some $40 million for relief efforts as Houston worked to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Watt has worked philanthropically throughout the entirety of his professional career. He founded the Justin J. Watt Foundation to help children access after school opportunities in sports and other areas, covered the funeral costs for the victims of an attack on the Waukesha, Wisconsin Christmas parade last year, and offered to pay for the funerals of the victims of the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas in 2018.

The football star is perhaps just as well known in Houston for small acts of kindness he offered to fans, and this could be yet another one of those instances. According to reporting from the Houston Chronicle, the Simpson family has been attempting to fundraise to pay for the funeral amidst financial challenges since June 20. The offer from Watt could put an end to that struggle.

“I posted last night trying to sell valuable items to raise money,” Ms Simpson tweeted on Thursday morning. “I woke up overwhelmed by the love and support of people who don’t even know my grandpas story. My family is so grateful for you all!”