Watt celebrates No. 4 Badgers' Big Ten triumph
It wasn’t at any point during the game, of course.
But after No. 4 Wisconsin demolished Northwestern 70-23 to claim a share of the Big Ten championship and perhaps stay on track for a Rose Bowl berth, the Badgers’ standout defensive end took his sweet time walking back to the locker room. He wanted to take in the moment.
“Oh, it took me a long time,” Watt said. “I wasn’t trying very hard. I was trying to enjoy every second of it, because this does not happen every year, every two years, every five years. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Left unsaid was the thought that it might have been his last game at Camp Randall Stadium.
Watt, a redshirt junior who began his college career as a tight end at Central Michigan, has emerged as one of the nation’s top defensive linemen this season. Should he leave school early, he could become a hot commodity in the NFL draft.
Watt’s brother Derek, a standout linebacker and running back, also has committed to play for the Badgers — but they might not play together in college.
“I don’t want to think of any of that right now,” Watt said. “Right now I’m just happy that that was the last one of this year and we celebrated the way we did.”
Badgers safety Aaron Henry said he’ll definitely try to talk Watt into coming back.
“J.J. makes my job a whole lot easier,” Henry said. “When you’ve got to worry about a guy like him up front, it’s definitely going to make it easier for me on the back end. But I’m sure he’s going to do what’s best for him and his family, but the kid is a tremendous player, and I think the rest of the country knows that.”
For the season, Watt has 59 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
He had one of his most dominant performances on Saturday, with two forced fumbles, a big hit that led to an interception and three tackles for loss.
“I was just trying to have some fun, you know?” Watt said. “It’s the last game of the year in Camp Randall, got to give the fans a little bit of a show, and our offense obviously put on a big show, so on defense, we had to put on a show as well. And we did that in a big way.”
Badgers coach Bret Bielema said Watt is the best defensive player in the Big Ten.
“At his position and what he has done for our defense, I can’t say that there is anybody in our league that is comparable,” Bielema said.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald wasn’t in any mood to rave about an opposing player who just dismantled his offense, but did tip his cap.
“I don’t know what superlatives you want,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a tremendous football player.”
With the Badgers leading by 40 points in the third quarter, Watt even blocked an extra point — a sign of extra effort that left the crowd chanting his name.
“We’re always taught to give 110 percent every single play and if they’re going to kick an extra point, it’s a point on the board we don’t want to have,” Watt said. “So I’m going to give 110 percent effort on that play, I’m going to give 110 percent effort on my last play of the game. Whenever I have a chance to be on that football field, I’m going to give every single thing I’ve got.”
Watt finally went to the sideline after tackling Northwestern’s Stephen Simmons for a 3-yard loss in the fourth quarter, exiting to a standing ovation.
“I was treating this game like the biggest game of your life, because that’s what it is,” Watt said. “You’re playing for a Big Ten championship, you’re playing for a chance to go to Pasadena. ... Ninety-nine percent of the world never gets this opportunity, what we’re doing right now. We’re embracing every second of it.”
Could it get any better?
“I can’t explain it,” Watt said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. So much hard work has been put into this, and every single minute of work was worth it.”