When J.J. Watt was drafted by the Texans in 2011, he was told his objective would be to stop Peyton Manning.
He didn't get that chance as a rookie, but he will on Sunday when the Texans visit Manning and the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"I want to sack him," Watt said. "I want to have number 18 on my sack list. That's my goal."
Watt's first NFL sack came against Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints last year. Brees went on to set the NFL single-season passing record. Watt finished his rookie season with 5.5 sacks and added 3.5 more in the playoffs.
This will be Watt's first game against Manning, the future Hall of Famer who tormented the Texans for years with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning missed both of the Colts' games against Houston last year because of a neck injury.
"I'm excited about it," Watt said. "It's a great challenge. You always want to play the best. It's Peyton Manning… You don't earn your stripes playing against inferior competition. You want to play against the best every single time, and that's a chance to prove yourself."
Watt was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, the first such honor of his young career. The 23-year-old emerging superstar, who worked at Pizza Hut in 2008 after leaving a scholarship at Central Michigan to walk on at Wisconsin, was humbled by the accolade.
"It's crazy," Watt said. "I was delivering pizzas four or five years ago, and now I get awards like this. It's unbelievable to me. I'm honored to have the award, but it's a lot cooler for everybody else that helped get me here. It's a lot cooler for my high school coach, for my mom, for my dad and for everybody who helped me for the times I wasn't AFC Defensive Player of the Week, for everybody who was there when I wasn't on a scholarship at Wisconsin, when I wasn't anyone. That's why this is cool for me. That's why stuff like this is special to me and will never not be special."
After missing the preseason because of a dislocated left elbow, Watt is tied for the AFC with three sacks through two games. He ranks third in the NFL with five passes defensed.
"Something tells me there's going to be a lot of awards that go around for him," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's off to a special start as a player. It's important to him, just watching him practice. I think sometimes, when guys go through what we went through in camp, it lights the fire. Not that he needed motivation, but you can just see every day is very important to him. It's showing on the field."