Every good trilogy needs a memorable final act.
The NFL draft begins April 27, and for the third time in recent history, a former Pewaukee High School football player will get selected. The question is whetherthat happens Thursday in the first round or in the early part of the second round Friday.
TJ Watt will become the third Watt brother to wear an NFL jersey. Fellow University of Wisconsin products Derek (drafted by San Diego in 2016) and JJ (drafted by Houston in 2011) have already begun crafting their NFL legacies. Of course, that includes three NFL Defensive Player of the Year trophies in JJ's case.
TJ had a breakout season as a junior defensive end/linebacker for the Badgers last year, although he started his Badgers career as a tight end (not unlike JJ, who started his career as a tight end at Central Michigan). His high school career took some memorable turns, including these notable moments in time:
The record setter
Like his brothers, TJ won the Division 2 state shot put title. But he was the only Watt brother to break the record his father set in the discus. At the Pewaukee Altheimer Invite in May 2012, TJ tossed the discus 155 feet, 8 inches, breaking John Watt’s 1980 mark of 151-7. TJ won the event that day by 28 feet.
TJ delivered a throw of 161-0 feet at Kewaskum two weeks later at the sectional meet, a record that still stands. He threw 156-0 at the sectional as a senior and ultimately took sixth place at the state meet. Derek sits third in school history at 148 feet.
When TJ won the 2013 state shot put title as a senior, he tossed it 60 feet, 0 ½ inches, though he set the school record one week earlier at the sectional when he threw it 60-2.
It was JJ who first took down father John’s record in the shot, heaving 59-11 ¼ for the 2007 state championship. Derek cleared 60 feet on his final toss after sewing up the state title in 2011, but an official ruled his heel struck the toeboard for a disqualification. He had to settle for a gold-medal performance of 57-5.
TJ got the last laugh with his winning shot and school-record performance in the discus, as well.
'Snap the ball'
That discus throw at Kewaskum might not have even been the most memorable moment at that high school in TJ's career.
Perhaps no moment was stranger during his football days than in 2011, when his Pirates took down undefeated Kewaskum in a Level 2 battle under the strangest of circumstances. Watt was right in the middle of it.
Kewaskum tied the game to force overtime in the final minute of regulation, making it 14-14, and the Indians scored first in the extra session for a 21-14 lead.
The teams huddled before Pewaukee’s possession, and the Pirates returned to the field first. When Kewaskum players were slow to return, officials blew the ready-for-play whistle and marked the ball ready.
"The refs blew the play in and nobody moved," TJ said later. "I looked over to see if we could run the play; I told Brock to get under center and snap the ball. It was very surreal."
Bateman threw the ball to Watt, who trotted in for a 25-yard touchdown on basically an uncontested down.
Pewaukee didn’t hesitate after the score in choosing what to do next, electing to go for the winner-take-all 2-point conversion. Ben Steker caught Brock Bateman’s pass in the back of the end zone for the winning points in the 22-21 thriller.
Watt caught two touchdowns in the game.
"It feels great because my brother (JJ) only made it to Round 3, too, so we're going to try and push past that," TJ said after.
“TJ is the one who had the wherewithal, and just to have his head screwed on straight to ask if they should be running the play or not (was great),” then-Pewaukee coach Clay Iverson said in 2016. “It was such an odd thing.”
That Pirates team fell to Wisconsin Lutheran in Level 3. The 2016 Pewaukee team was the first to reach Level 4, falling to Catholic Memorial in the state semifinal.
That was TJ’s junior season, the last for Iverson as head coach. With new coach Justin Friske taking the reins in 2012, TJ made the move to quarterback, of all places.
By now, JJ was in his second year of the NFL and already beginning to receive some notoriety. The spotlight might have been shining a little brighter on TJ, making the unorthodox move to a position neither of his brothers played with the varsity in high school.
"The issue is twofold," said Friske at the time. "There weren't a lot of quarterbacks in the pipeline, so it was a position of need for us. And TJ wants the ball in his hands to see if he can make a difference and give himself and his teammates the best chance to be successful. Typically, if we don't have a quarterback effective at throwing the football and making plays in the passing game, it nullifies (a good tight end) without the defense doing anything. His football IQ is strong enough that it's worth taking a long look at him at that position.
"With any great experiment, there is some risk," Friske added. "But I think it'd be risky to go into a season without a quarterback. We're going to run the football, and if we have a quarterback who's dynamic in the run game, it makes our offense that much more explosive.”
Needless to say, it paid off. TJ led the Pirates to an undefeated regular season that year. Pewaukee fell in Level 2 of the playoffs to Catholic Memorial, 21-0.
"TJ won't tell you, but he has a little bit or a rivalry with his brothers and wants to put himself in a position to accomplish more than what his brothers' teams have accomplished," Friske said before the 2012 season. "It's unfair to compare him with JJ and Derek because they're all different kids. He's worn that mantle pretty well, but I know it gets old. People do give him a harder time, and he's been gracious and good at it ... but he wants to write his own chapter in the Watt family book."
He’s about to write a pretty big chapter later this week.