Tuesday was a big day for J.J. Watt.
First, the Texans' second-year defensive end made the cover of "Sports Illustrated." The storied magazine releaed a picture of Watt Tuesday morning on one of its two weekly regional covers with the headline, "MEGA WATT: THE TEXANS' DEFENSE RIDES THE LIGHTNING."
Watt, the NFL sack leader, made the cover over Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, who won the World Series on Sunday. The Giants' achievement was noted in a headline – with no photo – at the top of the cover, right above Watt's head.
"When I was kid, we would go to Disney World and do those photos where you put your face on the SI cover," Watt said on Wednesday. "Now, my face is actually on the SI cover. It's pretty cool. It's surreal. It's an honor. It's just one of those things you dream about as a kid."
Watt said he did not know he was going to be on the cover and was "shocked" when he first saw it on Twitter. He said he even "had to check with a couple different sources to make sure it was real." He also said he does not believe in the SI cover jinx.
"I believe hard works cures everything," Watt said. "I don't believe in jinxes. I don't believe in sophomore slumps. I don't believe in any of that. I believe if you work hard and you do things the right way, you'll be just fine."
On Tuesday night, Watt attended a Justin Bieber concert at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston. He spent time backstage with Bieber, the 18-year-old pop sensation, and Bieber's mother, Pattie Mallette. Watt went to the concert with Peter and Aaron Berry, young brothers from Houston who were paralyzed below the waist in a July 2011 car crash that also killed their parents.
Watt visited the Berry children in the hospital last summer and has been friends with them ever since. Bieber started a national "Show Your Heart" movement last year to raise money for the children.
"Justin has done a lot with the Berry children, and I was there with them to meet Justin," Watt said. "It was good. I have a lot of respect for him for what he did for those kids, and obviously, he does a lot of charitable acts, so it was a good time. Those kids, they're a riot. It was Peter's birthday, and Justin took the cake and smashed it in his face, so they loved that. They're just great kids. It's unbelievable to see their spirit, to go through what they had to go through at such a young age and see the way they bounce back."
Watt did not plan to continue his big week by dressing up for Halloween on Wednesday night. He also didn't attend Texans quarterback Matt Schaub's Halloween party on Monday because, he said, "I felt like it was a little more of a couples party, and I'm a single 23-year old. I didn't have a date."
Even though Watt didn't dress up for Halloween, the holiday has brought him a new onslaught of fan support via Twitter. The 6-5, 290-pound defensive end said he was "almost at a loss for words" after seeing photos of fans dressed up as him for Halloween and of pumpkins with his likeness carved into them.
"It's unbelievable," Watt said. "It's extremely humbling... Probably the biggest surprise to me was at the concert yesterday, I walk out and there is a whole bunch of little girls screaming my name and I'm like, 'Are you sure you know who I am? You're not supposed to know me. I'm a football player.'"
Despite the SI cover and fan adulation, Watt remains focused on his on-field goals. His 9.5 sacks and 10 passes defensed through seven games have him on pace for a historic season, but he said last week that he wasn't concerned with any seven-game accomplishments.
"It's easy to stay focused when there are still things you're working towards," Watt said. "There are a lot more things out there that I want to get done. The SI cover is nice, but it's not anywhere near my ultimate goal. I have a lot more things on the checklist. Every time I set a goal and I reach a goal, I have a new goal that I make. There is so much more we want to do as a team. We understand what it takes to get here. I understand what it took to get on the cover of SI, and I also understand what it's going to take to stay at this level and keep playing this way and our team to keep playing this way.
"Like I've said before, it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. They can love you one minute and hate you the next. You just got to keep playing, keep doing what you do. I was brought up to work hard. Hard work is always going to be the basis of everything I do."