JJ Watt reflects on Jason Kelce's 'unbelievable career,' explains why he was so 'frustrating to play against'

J.J. Watt was in tears walking off the field for what he knew would be his final NFL game in 2022 with the Arizona Cardinals.

Jason Kelce was not sure what he would do next, but after making things official earlier this month that he would be done, the tears were flowing during his 45-minute-long retirement speech in Philadelphia.

As Kelce reflected on his illustrious career as the Philadelphia Eagles’ center, Watt did his own reflection about how “frustrating” it was playing against him.


Former NFL player J.J. Watt visits the set of the Amazon Prime “Thursday Night Football” pregame show prior to an NFL football game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium on Nov. 2, 2023 in Pittsburgh. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

“He’s frustrating to play against, man. He’s too smart. He’s too athletic. He can do it all,” Watt told Fox News Digital while discussing his new partnership with DICK’S House of Sport, DICK’S Sporting Goods’ more massive, experiential store. “He’s just a good dude also.”

Watt and Kelce both entered the NFL at the same time, though the former knew where he was going well before the latter. Coming out of Wisconsin, Watt was one of the premier prospects on the defensive line, and the Houston Texans took him 11th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.


He may have had a slow start to his career (5.5 sacks in 16 games), but he broke out in 2012 with 20.5 sacks and 39 tackles for loss, going on to win AP Defensive Player of the Year and being named first-team All-Pro for the first of five times.

Meanwhile, Kelce was taken in the sixth round by the Eagles, though the 24-year-old was thrust into a starting role that year. He would eventually make his first Pro Bowl in 2014, and he would make it six times after that, while being named first-team All-Pro six times as well.

Watt explained why Kelce was a pain to go against when he was on the schedule.

Jason Kelce, #62 of the Philadelphia Eagles, reacts after announcing his retirement from the NFL at NovaCare Complex on March 4, 2024 in Philadelphia. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

“He’d call out the blitzes as you’re lining up, and you’ll get pissed,” Watt explained while laughing. “Or he’ll switch the protection to my side even though I know it’s not supposed to go to my side. He’s going to make it go [over there]. It’s frustrating to play against him because he’s so good. And he also can do so many things athletically. He can pull around the edge, he can hold up to a bull rush. He can do a bunch of different things.”

Watt and Kelce may have been on opposite sides of the line, but one thing they both have in common is their ability to make a lasting impression on the organizations they played for, while also making an impact on their communities.

“I just think the way he handles himself – every single person that comes out of that organization talks about the teammate he is, who he is as a person,” Watt said. “It shines through and we all know that.”

There is no question Kelce will be heading to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and it is likely going to be Watt with him one day as well.

Jason Kelce winks after the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024 in Las Vegas. (Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)

“He’s had an unbelievable career, and he will certainly walk right into Canton and get a gold jacket here in five years,” Watt said, indicating that he feels Kelce will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

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Scott Thompson is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.

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