Soccer players at Arnold Middle School received a surprise visit on Feb. 7, when the parents of Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt, Connie and John, dropped by to present brand-new soccer uniforms and soccer goals to the students on behalf of the Justin J. Watt Foundation.
The donations, valued at more than $8,000, were the result of a grant application by Arnold Middle School soccer coaches. The Watts, who were in town for the Super Bowl, gave it a personal touch by surprising the 85 student athletes on the athletic fields.
“Our schedules don’t usually provide us the opportunity to get to a lot of these types of events, so when we do it really is special and really does motivate you even more,” John said. “They showed us their old uniforms, and they were good uniforms for their time, but it’s nice to be able to upgrade them and give them what they want. Hopefully it will help them be better students, better players, better mentors to younger players, and keep boiling over for the next generation.”
After getting approved for the equipment grant and learning that the foundation would make a personal visit, Arnold staff began working behind the scenes to make it a true surprise for students.
“We initially passed out our old uniforms, and the kids were obviously very disappointed. Last year they practiced with orange cones as goals, and they thought these goals were for the high school,” said Jodi Matteson, Arnold principal. “They thought they were here today for a required district meeting. They were truly surprised.”
The Watts joined Arnold staff in distributing the maroon Nike Dri-Fit uniforms to all the students. Some of the students began testing out the new goals by kicking into and defending the net.
“It is so nice to see the administration and coaches caring enough about the kids to give them the things they need to make them better,” John said. “JJ will get a video of this today and he’ll be absolutely tickled.”
The Justin J. Watt Foundation has donated more than $2.745 million to after-school athletic programs since its inception. In CFISD, the foundation has supported Club Rewind ROCKS, as well as Hopper and Anthony middle school soccer programs and Dean Middle School athletics.
“This has been JJ’s vision since he was a junior in college, and we’re happy to carry out his mission and vision of supporting after-school athletics and giving kids a safe and fun place to be after school,” Connie said. “We couldn’t do it without our sponsors and donors, the people who are constantly sending gifts in. Parents and teachers can only do so much, but if we all work together we can accomplish big things.”