J.J. Watt is headed to the desert, and he's received quite the compliment from the family of a Cardinals legend upon his arrival.
Watt has worn No. 99 for his career previously spent exclusively in Houston.
Now that he's going to Arizona, he'll need to determine his numerical identity, and his typical number is retired by the Cardinals, who sent the jersey to the rafters in honor of running back Marshall Goldberg. Goldberg's daughter, Ellen Goldberg Tullos, told TMZ Sports she gives the Cardinals her permission to unretire her father's number in order for Watt to wear it in 2021 and beyond.
"He has my blessings," Tullos said of Watt, per TMZ Sports, "and I'm sure my father would be more than delighted for him to carry it on."
Watt confirmed Tuesday he spoke to Tullos and she gave him permission to wear No. 99 for the Cardinals.
"This morning when I woke up, I saw the TMZ report, that's how I got my news, and it said that somebody had reached out to her and she had given the blessing for me to wear 99 and that they would be honored if I would do that," Watt told reporters at his introductory press conference. "I wanted to hear it from her directly, I wanted to have a conversation with her to make sure and confirm that.
"We had a great conversation, she was super sweet, said that she believes her father would be honored and she believes that he was all about the players and so she said that she thought he would want me to wear it. I'm very honored and touched that they thought of me in that way and that I can do that and I told her that I would do everything in my power to honor him and to make him proud and make his legacy proud."
Goldberg was a Pro Bowler and NFL champion who played both ways in football's ironman era. Goldberg wore No. 99 in the final three seasons of his career, which took place during football's early days, back when skill position players wore numbers that would look strange in today's game. Browns legend Otto Graham began his career wearing No. 60 before pivoting to 14 following the NFL's implementation of jersey number rules based on position, and he's far from the only one who made such a switch as the game modernized. Goldberg also wore Nos. 42 and 89 during his time with the Cardinals, who called Chicago their home during his career before moving to St. Louis in 1960, and finally, the Phoenix area in 1988.
"As part of this, I want to make sure that people know the name and are aware of Marshall Goldberg and everything that he did, including his time in the Navy in the middle of his NFL career," Watt said. "So, I appreciate that, I appreciate the family and I want to give a big thank you to them."
Watt has worn No. 99 for most of his football-playing days dating back to his time at Wisconsin, where he walked on following a one-year stint at Central Michigan. Watt played tight end with the Chippewas and wore No. 82 for a season before leaving the Mid-American Conference to chase greater dreams closer to home in the Big Ten. He made the numerical switch with the Badgers, rose to prominence as an effective defender, and the rest is history.
The Cardinals took Tullos' word and decided to update their own history. After all, Watt's arrival very well could be the beginning of a new, memorable chapter for Arizona.