Normally, J.J. is the Watt who grabs the honors. On Thursday, though, the spotlight was on the defensive end's mother, Connie.
She was honored Thursday at the first annual Pro-Vision Cornerstone Lunch for her great charity work with the J.J. Watt Foundation. Pro-Vision, Inc. is a charter school that offers the youth of Greater Houston the guidance and support they need to realize their full potential, both academically and morally.
Among the high-profile guests attending the celebration were Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith and wife Tiffany, head coach Bill O'Brien and his wife Colleen, Pro-Vision Board Member and ESPN color commentator Jeff Van Gundy, and the Watts.
"It's wonderful to be able to help out," Connie said about her work with the J.J. Watt Foundation. "Now I get to do what I'm passionate about everyday which is my children, and then helping other people's children."
One of the J.J. Watt Foundation's main objectives is to provide sufficient funding for after-school athletic programs that teach children teamwork and perseverance.
"Trying to raise three kids, it's still —even in a two-income family—it's tough sometimes," Connie said. "You've got these sports fees and whatnot, so we totally understand that.
"Kids are kids; they're supposed to have fun. They're supposed to just be able to chase their dreams and do what they want. If they want to try soccer or football, they should be allowed to do that. That's why we do want to give back, so all these kids have those opportunities and choices."
With Mother's Day around the corner, Tiffany Smith devised the concept of recognizing a mom who has made an impactful contribution to the community.
"I consider Pro-Vision Charter School a nurturing environment and who nurtures more than mothers?" Tiffany said. "Connie came to mind, and she went out to visit the school and fell in love with it. Through that relationship we thought we'd go forward and have something to benefit the school."
The Smiths' partnership with Pro-Vision began seven years ago when Tiffany was planting flowers at a Lady Texans event at the school. After learning about the institution and its commitment to the 300 plus students enrolled, she took an interest in supporting the organization.
"It touched me when they talked about some of the trials that the kids go through and how they're persevering," Tiffany said. "At this school, the kids are their own janitors; they get their hair cut at the school, they have a dress code that they adhere to. The discipline there and the focus there is impressive."
Van Gundy also spoke very highly of the institution and was even more complimentary of the Watts.
"These last four years as a board member have changed my life and how I see the opportunities to help those who, frankly, a lot of times no one is thinking about," Van Gundy said. "I was so impressed with [Watt's] mom and her values, and then to see this guy care so deeply about children who will have no impact on his life. At such a young age, he cares about people that didn't have the same benefits he did growing up. I'm humbled by his perspective on life."
As a Texans season-ticket holder, Van Gundy is used to saluting the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year for his ability to sack quarterbacks, but now he has another reason to applaud.
"I cheer for this guy because of what a stud he is on the football field, but now my respect has so deepened for who he is."
Watt, who describes his mother as the ultimate "momager," says the functionality of his foundation would not be remotely possible without Connie. She runs his charity during the season and organizes all its events, including the J.J. Watt Charity Classic softball tournament which takes place on Friday.
Although Connie would rather stay behind the scenes and go about her business anonymously, Watt is elated that her work is being recognized.
"It means a lot for me to have my mom be the center of attention," he said. "Obviously, I get plenty of publicity and press for the things that I do, but it's important for her to get the credit because between her and my dad and my family, the ability to raise me and teach me the right morals and values is the reason I am who I am today. None of that would be possible without her. We got to shower her with some love because she truly deserves it."