JJ Watt to receive honorary doctorate


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J.J. Watt’s 2017 season may not have gone as planned on the field, but he continues to rack up awards for the work he did off the gridiron.

Already named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year and the co-winner of Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year (along with Astros infielder Jose Altuve), Watt will add an honorary doctorate degree to his list of accomplishments.

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston will present Watt with an honorary Doctor of Humanities Medicine degree for his work with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. The degree is awarded to individuals who have provided exceptional support or service to academic medicine as a whole, and to the community at large.

“In the year following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the community’s incredible response, it was most fitting to honor two community leaders who contributed in major ways, Dr. Persse and J.J. Watt,” Dr. Paul Klotman, Baylor’s president, said in a statement. “Our graduates and their families can take important lessons from these honorary degree recipients.”

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Watt started a fundraising campaign for victims of Hurrican Harvey with an initial goal of $200,000. He received support from all over the country, including from numerous other athletes and celebrities, and was able to generate about $37 million in donations.

But he didn’t stop with the fundraising, making sure the money raised would be directed to those most in need as thousands of people in the Houston metro area lost all or parts of their homes.

Watt didn’t just put his name on a cause to raise money and then stop there, he also contributed his time and personally helped out by passing out supplies to those affected.

Watt’s service didn’t stop in the weeks following the hurricane. After the season ended he headed to Port Arthur, Texas and helped with the distribution of more goods.

Watt and the other honorees will receive their degrees at Baylor’s commencement on May 29. That will come during the Texans’ OTAs but it’s still unknown if Watt will be participating in on-field workouts at that time following his knee injury and surgery.

A tibial plateau fracture in his left leg ended Watt’s season in October after just five games. He underwent surgery the next day and began his rehab immediately.

A torn ACL by Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson shortly thereafter also meant Watt would have a training partner at the Texans’ rehab facility.

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Watt started running on an Anti-Gravity Treadmill in January and said he’s on track to return for Texans’ training camp in July.

Due to various injuries and four surgeries, Watt has played in just eight games over the last two seasons. Even though he hasn’t made much of an impact on the field during that span, his contributions off the field have more than made up for that.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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