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Watt recalls brother J.J.'s draft night as he prepares for his own

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The draft can't come soon enough for T.J. Watt.

After an outstanding NFL Scouting Combine performance, workouts and visits with nine teams and phone calls with others, the linebacker-defensive end hybrid from Pewaukee, Wisconsin, caught a fever this week. The minor sickness was a final, if not wholly inconsequential, hurdle for Watt before being selected in the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia).

Having not worked out for or visited a team since his trip to Denver last Tuesday, Watt has spent the last few days between Pewaukee and Madison, taking in his girlfriend's soccer games, receiving his Cotton Bowl ring alongside his college teammates at Wisconsin's spring game and spending time with his family.

The days spent in Pewaukee, beginning with workouts and ending with movie nights at home, have kept Watt's mind off of what's to come: A life-changing job placement broadcast live to millions around the world.

"I've tried to do a really good job this whole time of blocking it out," Watt told NFL.com, "but I'd be lying if I said it isn't creeping up on me a little bit just as it gets closer. I don't think I'm anxious or anything like that because all that stuff is out of my control. I'm just gonna keep working out and come draft night let the cards fall where they may."

This won't be Watt's first draft night -- or his second, really. Having your name called by Commissioner Roger Goodell is turning into a coming-of-age ritual for the Watts from Wisconsin.

Watt can recall vividly the night his oldest brother, J.J., was drafted in 2011. A 16-year-old in high school, T.J. and his brother Derek couldn't even walk the red carpet with J.J. and were instead forced to walk in the back door of Radio City Music Hall. As T.J. Watt remembers the "surreal" experience, tensions were high at the Watt family table in the draft green room, and he was completely unaware of the stakes.

"I remember distinctly touching J.J.'s phone for whatever reason -- I don't know what it was for," Watt said, "and he got real, real pissed at me for even touching his phone because obviously I didn't realize the implications or how big of a night it was for him."

The Houston Texans later called J.J. on that very same phone, telling him he'd been chosen with the 11th overall pick. NFL Network footage from that evening shows J.J. ecstatic while on the phone and Derek shaking his older brother's shoulders. T.J., on the other hand, stands behind both of them, wearing a gray suit his mother picked out from Kohl's, emotionless.

"A lot of people always said I didn't look happy. But I think I was in shock and at the same time I just thought it was so normal. I don't know," Watt said. "Derek was obviously really pumped and I think he was older and he kind of understoood a little bit more what was actually happening.

"If it were to happen now, I would be absolutely ecstatic. Like when Derek got picked (198th overall by the Chargers) last year, I was probably the happiest guy in the room. But I don't know why I didn't show more expression."

This year, there will be no green room for Watt. No prying lenses. No mom-approved discount suits. Just 10-12 family and friends eating catered Chipotle -- "Can't go wrong there", he said -- at the Watt residence in Pewaukee, "where it all started."

"I'm going to be leaving for a whole new city and most likely a whole new state and I don't know when I'll see everyone together again," Watt said.

Unless Watt is selected by the home-state Green Bay Packers, T.J. will be the third and final Watt brother to fly the coop and enter the NFL. The Watts hit the trifecta in that regard, and T.J. says his parents, Connie and John, are the ones who deserve the adulation.

"Obviously, it's not common at all and I think it's just a product of how hard we have worked and obviously all the credit goes to them for teaching us how to work hard and do the little things right," Watt said. "The countless hours of cooking and driving us to and from practice, it's all paid off. I think that's the biggest part of this whole thing. We've come so far, but we still have so much more to accomplish."

In just a few days, Watt will know his NFL destination, but for now, he's taking it easy and retracing his steps. From Radio Music City Hall, where he was introduced to the business side of football, to Camp Randall Stadium, where he could have stayed for another season and been "that veteran presence", and back home, where his life will change once again this weekend.

Six years after he stood by, stoically, as his oldest brother was drafted, Watt might smile when his name is called, just not for too long.

"It's gonna be awesome and I'm gonna be real anxious," Watt said. "That's when I'm gonna be really excited to get to my new city and to get to work."

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