J.J. Watt says farewell to the Houston Texans and the city: 'I love you'

    J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans leaves the field after a game against the Tennessee Titans in Houston, Texas, on January 3, 2021.

    (CNN)J.J. Watt, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is leaving the Houston Texans after 10 seasons.

    In a video shared on social media Friday, Watt shared the news that he'd asked for and received a release from the Texans, who drafted him out of Wisconsin with the eleventh pick of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The decision to part ways was mutual, he said.
    "I came here 10 years ago as a kid from Wisconsin who had never really been to Texas before. And now I can't imagine my life without Texas in it," Watt said, adding, "I truly feel like you're my family."
      The 31-year-old has earned five first-team All-Pro honors with Houston and twice led the NFL in sacks.
        But he's just as well-known for his philanthropic work off the field. After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston in 2017, Watt raised more than $37 million for the hurricane victims.
        Watt was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year that year, an award that goes to an NFL player who demonstrates "excellence on and off the field." He was also named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
        In 2018 he offered to pay for the funerals of 10 individuals killed in a school shooting at a high school in Santa Fe. And last year, he and his wife, professional soccer player Kealia Ohai, donated $350,000 to Houston Food Bank in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
        In his video message, Watt joked about getting booed on the night he was drafted, but said "since that day I have tried to do everything in my power to work and earn your respect and try to make you proud on and off the field."
        "You guys have given me everything and more, and I can only hope that you feel like I've given you everything I have," he said.
        As for what's next, Watt said he was "excited and looking forward to a new opportunity."
        "Thank you, Houston," Watt said after thanking his teammates, the team staff and the Texans owners. "I love you."
          In a statement Friday, Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair said Watts' impact on the team and the Houston community "is unlike any player in our franchise's history."
          "I told J.J. earlier this week that we will forever consider him a Texan," McNair said. "We take solace in knowing that this is not a goodbye but a 'see you soon.'"