T.J. Watt Says Brother J.J. 'Knew It Was Time' to Retire: 'I'm Very Happy for Him'

"I think having Koa and being very set, happy and satisfied with where he is in life, he knew it was time," T.J. tells PEOPLE

T.J. Watt Says Brother J.J. 'Knew It was Time' to Retire
J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt. Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty, Joe Sargent/Getty

Pittsburgh Steeler T.J. Watt says he's "very happy" for his brother J.J., who announced his retirement from the NFL in December.

T.J., 28, tells PEOPLE that he knew his brother was going to retire "about a month" before J.J., 33, announced the decision publicly. The former NFL star had been talking about retiring "for a couple months," says T.J., but admits he "never knew how real [J.J.] actually was" about retirement.

The youngest Watt brother recalls taking J.J.'s comments more seriously while they were in Arizona for a bye week, he explains. "He talked about it a little more seriously, but I still wasn't ready to take him serious about it yet," T.J. admits.

Eventually, T.J. says his brother "let us know that he wasn't just joking around and it was actually serious that he was going to walk away after the season."

JJ Watt and Kealia Watt Welcome Their First Baby

T.J. tells PEOPLE he thinks that "having Koa" — J.J.'s four-month-old son — "and being very happy and satisfied with where he is in his life" helped the athlete to know "it was time," he shares. J.J. and his wife Kealia Watt welcomed Koa on Oct. 23, 2022.

Now, J.J.'s decision is admirable to T.J., who says "to be able to walk away playing at the highest level still and on your own terms" is ideal. "I think that's the coolest thing," says T.J. "I'm very happy for him."

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The former Arizona Cardinal is enjoying retirement, his brother says, and now the brothers — including 30-year-old Derek Watt, who also plays for the Steelers — are finding new ways to spend time together outside of the NFL.

J.J. Watt, Derek Watt, and T. J. Watt attend the 11th Annual NFL Honors at YouTube Theater on February 10, 2022 in Inglewood, California
Amy Sussman/Getty

Derek and T.J. are both living in Wisconsin, where J.J. "always comes up to visit," says T.J. "More than anything, It's just a special bond and friendship. My brothers and I are all so close. It's just a lot of great conversations."

Golf has been a favorite pastime for the retired Watt brother, says T.J. "[J.J.] tried to get me to caddy for him on Wednesday," he says with a laugh. "I'm like, I'm not going to carry your golf thing for four hours and get sunburned and exhausted. That doesn't sound like fun to me. He did it as a joke to try to get me to just say yes on a whim. I was like, I thought about it enough. Not going to happen, bro."

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