Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was honored to accept an invitation to speak during the commencement ceremony at Wisconsin, where he played football for two seasons.
Watt, the NFL’s three-time defensive player of the year, is accustomed to public speaking, so he assumed that his remarks during the May 11 ceremony would be no big deal, until he was asked for a copy of his speech so that it could be loaded into a Teleprompter.
“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ” Watt told ESPN. “‘I don’t write speeches. I’m just going to go up there and talk.’ That was my full plan. I did not know that you had to write it all out. I’m dead serious. I didn’t know. He was like, ‘They have a Teleprompter for you. What do you want on it?’
“I said, ‘Nothing. Just give me a black screen and tell me when to stop talking.’ That was literally my plan, but I found out you have to write some stuff down. So I have about a month to figure it out.”
Watt, who attended Central Michigan before transferring to Wisconsin as a walk-on in 2008, knows full well (apologies to commencement speakers everywhere!) that students might not be paying too much attention to graduation day speeches.
“I mean, I have some messages I want to say,” Watt said. “I have some things I want to get across. But let’s be honest: They just want to go drink beer afterward. They’re excited. I know how commencements go. They just want the person to give a cool message for about five minutes, and then get off the stage.”
Watt, who grew up just outside Milwaukee, left Wisconsin without graduating, so you can also understand his lack of familiarity with the whole process.
“I never graduated, so I get to see what graduation looks like,” Watt said. “It’s an honor. It’s such a true honor. Being invited to go back [and] have the opportunity to go back to a school and a team that I watched growing up and idolized, walked on and eventually got a scholarship from [and] now to be able to speak at their commencement, it’s an unbelievable honor.
"I take it very seriously. Even though I said I wasn’t going to write a speech, I take it very seriously. I’m humbled.”
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