J.J. Watt is taking his talents overseas. Watt will visit U.S. military bases overseas later this offseason on an NFL-USO Tour.
Watt, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year this past season, will be joined by other players and coaches from around the league on the tour. In 1965 then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle conceived the idea of sending NFL players to Vietnam on “goodwill tours’ to visit U.S. troops. The following year the NFL joined forces with the USO and became the first sports organization to send a group of players to Vietnam and other parts of the Far East. Players and coaches made tours from 1965-1981. After a trip in 1984, the NFL has sent players to the Middle East some what on a regular basis since 2000.
Former Texan Danny Clarke went on the league’s tour in 2009 when he was a member of the New York Giants. His tour was focused in Iraq after flying into Kuwait. Clarke said the way players get on the tours is a matter of just making yourself available for the NFL-USO Tour. It was an active war zone when Clarke made his visit and he said that it’s an easy decision to put yourself in harms way for a few days when everyone over there is doing everyday.
Clarke knew making a trip to the Middle East was essential for him partly because of his twin younger brothers, whom both have served multiple tours overseas. One brother with the Air Force and the other with the Marines.
“It was my duty as a big brother to go over there,” Clarke said. “We were playing a game over here like it’s life and death and they look at us as heroes. They are the real heroes. They go outside everyday and it is life and death.”
One of Clarke’s brothers leaves for yet another tour, this time in South Korea, Tuesday morning
“You’re my biggest hero,” Clarke told him over the phone on Monday.
Clarke spoke so passionately about his tour and how much it changed his life once he returned to the states. Granted Clarke has an added connection to the armed forces but said that it altered all of the players he went with including Jared Allen and Larry Fitzgerald.
Watt finished last season with a NFL leading 20.5 sacks and performs a military salute after each one. Watt also received a special present from the Blue Angels this season as well.
Other Notable Texans who have made on a NFL-USO Tour:
2011: Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak
2010: Mario Williams
2012: Eric Winston