'Bittersweet' for J.J. Watt to root on wife, Kealia, from afar

Facing the undefeated North Carolina Courage on Wednesday, Kealia Watt and the Chicago Red Stars came up short, 1-0, in National Women's Soccer League action.

As the match was played in the confines of Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt would have no doubt liked to be there in person to root on his wife, Kealia, but that's not a possibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Watt, whose brothers T.J. and Derek play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's most certainly a family affair when it comes to dealing with navigating professional sports amid the current restrictions.

As he explained to NFL Network's Willie McGinest on Wednesday evening on NFL Total Access, seeing Watt on Kealia's jersey (formerly Ohai, prior to the couple's marriage in February) is still a thrill, but missing out on being a live rooting section for his wife has been an unfortunate byproduct of the current new normal.

"The first time I saw it, it was incredible. I'm so proud of her. I'm so grateful to have her in my life," J.J. Watt said. "Right now is a very bittersweet time. She's in Utah playing in their tournament, but they're in a bubble. So I can't go see her, she can't come see me, so we're not allowed to see each other. So, for me to watch her play soccer -- which is one of my favorite things to do, I love watching her compete, I love watching her do what she loves -- I have to give up being able to actually see her, to physically see her. So it's bittersweet, but I've been loving watching her play and she looks great. It's a lot of fun. Trust me, I can't wait to see her again at the end of the month."

In more ways than one, it would seem the waiting is the hardest part for Watt, who's anticipating a return to the practice field and seeing his teammates. When asked by McGinest as to how the Texans look, Watt's outlook was more about his excitement for getting back to action rather than prognosticating any fortunes ahead for the reigning AFC South titlists.

"We're looking forward to going out there and playing football. We're gonna, we obviously have some more weapons on offense, we've lost a couple weapons -- we have a little bit of change there -- but as a team we're gonna go out there, we're gonna compete, we're gonna play," said Watt of the Texans, who have lost their leading receiver (De'Andre Hopkins) and leading rusher (Carlos Hyde) from last year. "I just want to play, man. I just want to get out there and play. I can't wait to tell you what we look like, because that means I'm out there practicing with my guys."

While the NFL continues to decide on what lies ahead in terms of a preseason schedule and makes plans for the 2020 regular season, Watt not only has a rooting interest in the NWSL but is also paying attention to one of the first sports leagues in the country.

Next up for Kealia Watt -- originally a standout for the NWSL's Houston Dash, on the national team level and at the University of North Carolina -- is a Sunday matchup with Utah Royals FC. While J.J. Watt looks forward to playing football sooner than later, he'll no doubt be rooting on his wife from a lot farther away than he'd like.

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