COSTA MESA – As a California resident, Derek Watt is often the last one to check in on Sundays on the group text with his brothers J.J. and T.J., both NFL defensive players whose teams are in earlier times zones.
Derek Watt, a fullback for the Chargers, doesn’t just say good morning. The middle brother prefers to galvanize his siblings before they step on the field.
“Every Sunday I’ll text them, ‘Game day, boys. Let’s go,” Watt said.
Chargers center Mike Pouncey also has a brother playing in the NFL, Maurkice, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers and teammates with Derek’s younger brother, T.J Watt. Game-day rituals for the set of brothers might change this week. The Chargers and Steelers clash on prime-time on Sunday Night Football.
Maurkice and Mike have played each other three times before, when Mike was playing for the Miami Dolphins. This is Mike’s first season with the Chargers.
Outside of a uniform change, Mike Pouncey doesn’t think his fourth meeting with his identical twin will be any different. He’s more intrigued with the Watt brothers’ matchup.
“It’s better for Derek because he gets to go against his brother,” Pouncey said.
Derek Watt isn’t sure what will occur if he sees T.J. with a clear path to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. But one thing is certain – Derek is going for the block.
“If we happen to go up against each other it will kind of play itself out, so we’ll see how it goes,” Derek Watt said. “It could happen in a variety of ways, and I’m sure one way or another it will happen.”
Eldest brother, J.J., a star defensive end for the Houston Texans, will be watching his brothers go at it after his game against the Cleveland Browns.
Derek Watt doesn’t rule out the possibility of J.J. having a rooting interest. The Chargers (8-3), Steelers (7-3-1) and Texans (8-3) are all playoff contenders in the AFC, so Sunday’s night game could shake up the playoff picture.
“J.J. won’t pick a side, but we’re all in a playoff hunt,” Derek said. “I don’t know if one team presents different challenges for J.J. and he would like to see one team win.”
J.J. Watt told Houston reporters he’s rooting for a tie, and jokingly texted his brothers with a message discouraging cut-blocks.
Derek, 26, and T.J., 24, played together at Pewaukee High School in Wisconsin and in college for the Wisconsin Badgers. T.J., one of the best linebackers in the NFL, started his collegiate career as a tight end before injuries forced him to the other side of the ball.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who also played at Wisconsin, often reminds Derek how good T.J. was as a tight end.
“Melvin still talks about it,” Derek Watt said. “He swore T.J. was going to be one of the best tight ends he’s ever seen.”
Whisenhunt receives support
Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt reportedly has an interview this weekend to be the head coach at Georgia Tech. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn spoke to Whisenhunt about his interest in the opening earlier this week.
“It’s his alma mater and it’s an honor and a privilege for those guys to come after him,” Lynn said Friday about Whisenhunt. “He’s a good coach, but right now his focus is on Pittsburgh, and after this game we’ll talk about it some more.”
Whisenhunt’s meeting with Georgia Tech officials comes at a busy time, as the Chargers close in on a playoff berth and face the Steelers in arguably their biggest game of the season.
“Ken has been in this business for a long time,” Lynn said. “At this point in the year, we know what we are offensively. I don’t think it will be much of a distraction at all.”
Lynn said he hasn’t spoken to Whisenhunt about the possibility of him leaving the Chargers before the seasons ends.
“You hate to lose good coaches, but I promote my guys and I want them to advance in their careers and go on and do those type of things,” Lynn said. “He’s a heck of a coordinator.”
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has flourished under Whisenhunt’s offense this season. He supports Whisenhunt’s decision if he decides to go.
“I love Ken,” Ekeler said. “I feel like he’s put a lot of faith in me and been able to incorporate me into the offense. I feel (Ken) has a little bit of say of why I’m even here, so if he has to go I understand. It’s a business, but I’ll definitely miss him.”
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