“There's nothing on a planet that is better than seeing your son smile at you," J.J. Watt tells PEOPLE about being a new dad
J.J. and Kealia Watt teamed up to help coach a youth football clinic in Houston last week, where the sports couple told PEOPLE they’ve been enjoying their first summer as retirees with their 10-month-old son Koa.
“It's a very different fall for us, but we're very excited about it,” J.J., 34, tells PEOPLE. “It's nice to also have a couple moments to just relax, take a breath and spend time with our family,”
J.J., who retired from the NFL after last season, spoke with PEOPLE along with wife Kealia, a former U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team member who retired following the 2021 NWSL season. The couple welcomed their first son Koa last October.
Recently, the new parents teamed up with Frito-Lay and helped announce the brand will be making a $300,000 donation to GenYouth, a program that helps ensure school children have access to healthy food and physical activity.
“Kids are the future, they are the next generation, they're everything, and we just want to make sure that they have every opportunity to be successful,” J.J. said. “We understand that we were very fortunate growing up and not everybody has those same luxuries, and we just want to make sure that every kid has access to food and sport.”
The Watts smiled proudly as they explained how Koa is already taking an interest in sports.
“I imagine we'll be coaching in some capacity in the future,” J.J., 34, said, adding that his favorite toy this summer has been a soccer ball.
“He loves chasing it around and kicking it,” J.J. said.
The Watts said their summer has been full of traveling, often visiting with their siblings so that Koa can spend time with his five cousins. Kealia’s sister, Megan Cushing, has three boys, and J.J.’s brother Derek Watt has two sons.
“We’ve loved it. We've gotten to travel so much with him,” Kealia said. “It’s been really, really special.”
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J.J. says their son “loves the water,” whether it’s a pool or putting his feet in the lake. “He just loves to be outside and it's so fun for us just to watch him be a kid and watch him hang out with his cousins and play outside and learn the world,” J.J. said. “It's crazy to watch. He's 10 months old now, and to watch him just figure it all out, it’s really cool.”
The new dad paused and smiled before adding: “There's nothing on a planet that is better than seeing your son smile at you. Parenting is also very exhausting, and tiring, and kind of takes away from your sleep and all those things, but the positives are just the best.”
J.J. joked that he also “feels great” because he’s not preparing for football this fall. “Nobody was hitting me,” he said. “It’s been awesome, and I’m very, very happy.”
The three-time NFL defensive player of the year started his new job Sept. 3 as an analyst for CBS’ football coverage. “I just get to sit back and enjoy it all and can be a fan of everyone,” Watt said, sounding relaxed about the new gig.
His job will also include sometimes analyzing the Pittsburgh Steelers, where his brothers T.J. and Derrick play. Without hesitation, Watt admitted “yes,” he might have some bias this year. “If people ask me who’s the best defensive player in the league, I’m going to be like, ‘Hey, this isn’t even me being biased, but T.J.’s the best,’ “ he laughed. “Yeah, I’m a little biased. But I feel like when it’s blood, that’s OK.”
In addition to visiting family this summer, the Watts have stayed busy in their professional lives. The couple announced earlier this year that they bought an ownership stake in Burnley F.C., a soccer team that plays in the English Premier League.
“It’s been incredible,” Kealia said. “We love traveling to England, and I obviously love soccer and grew up playing it, so to be a part of a Premier League team now is just a dream come true.”
Kealia said watching games makes her miss playing soccer, but admitted it’s nice to not worry about getting injured. J.J. chimed in with a laugh that he’d “love” for Kealia to come out of retirement to play for Burnley’s women’s squad, “but her contract requests are just ridiculous.”
J.J. said he and Kealia get “almost more” of a rush from watching games rather than playing in them “because you can’t control the outcome.” “When we’re playing, we can at least kind of hand in if we're successful or not,” J.J. said. “But when we're on the ownership side, we're sitting in the stands and we can’t do anything. We're just hoping our guys put in the net. So, the adrenaline flows through you and you can pull your hair out at times too.”
Kaelia says the Watts “are pretty intense” when they watch Burnley play. J.J. even admitted “I lost my mind” after a referee made a debatable call during one recent match.
“So yeah,” J.J. laughed, “We still have the competitive juices.”
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