Reebok and J.J. Watt: The Next Generation of Workout Shoe

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has long been in pursuit of greatness and, at just 27-years-old, the four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Defensive Player of the Year is well on his way to achieving it.

Watt’s uncanny knack for getting to the quarterback – and creating highlights – is the product of an extensive workout regimen, one that proves he’s among the National Football League’s hardest working men. But recently, much of Watt’s time has been spent working outside of the gridiron. Now, he’s about to join elite company – names like Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

On July 15, Reebok will launch Watt’s signature training shoe, the JJI – designed to handle diverse workout routines, both on the field and in the gym. Watt’s highly publicized, unique workout methods have gained a great deal of attention over the course of his career and the 6-foot-5, 289-pound behemoth knows his signature shoe has to be able to endure the abuse, no matter the surface.

The shoe, which will retail for $99, comes in a red and white combination – perfect for Texans fans – and has a much simpler look than most of today’s gaudy sneakers, though nothing like the Curry Two.

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“I’ve worn every different shoe, I’ve tried everything, but I’ve never had a shoe that really fit exactly what I needed because, when I train, I go from a platform, to turf, to a rubber floor, to a wood floor, so I needed something that would be explosive but also sturdy, could be light and fast, but also strong enough to handle me on the platform – I needed something that could really handle anything, and there just wasn’t a shoe that did that,” Watt admitted during last week’s launch in New York City.

For Reebok and Watt, designing the shoe proved to be a strenuous task. One of the main reasons Watt signed on was because he knew Reebok would allow him the freedom to create the kind of shoe he wanted – one that would prove beneficial during exercise, yet incorporate a desired look. The entire process, from pencil and paper to Watt’s feet, took approximately one year to complete, with Watt’s primary focus being both performance and comfort – and he sought out plenty of advice.

“I’d go to my brothers for feedback, I’d go to some of my very close friends for feedback and to some of my teammates for feedback,” he added. “If I would’ve told anybody that I would have my own shoe, even a couple of years ago, they would’ve said no chance, but here we are – and it’s awesome.”

Watt will become the fourth professional athlete to have a signature shoe line with Reebok, joining Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, and Allen Iverson. When asked if he wore Reebok’s growing up, the Wisconsin native was quick to answer. “I love the Iverson’s. [Allen] sent me a signed pair of A.I.’s this offseason and I thought that was awesome. I have a bunch of different pairs of A.I.’s.”

But the question remains, how well do the JJI’s perform when pushed to the limit?

THE WATT WORKOUT REGIMEN

Reebok wanted to show off their newest product, so they recreated several of the superstar’s daily workout stations, intended to concentrate on separate areas of the body while focusing on strength, balance and endurance, giving attendees an inside look at how Watt prepares for Sunday. Each station was toned down, given the crowd’s limitations, but featured stickers indicating Watt’s personal best at the station. For example, the wood box jump – a station targeting legs and balance – had Watt’s highest jump stacked up at 61 inches, or just over five foot – the boxes were as high as several attendees. And although Watt hasn’t been able to hit the height recently because of a five-week layoff recovering from an injury, he’s confident and excited that he’ll be back at the mark in no time.

“I’m not fully back to 61 [inches] yet but I’ve gotten back up to 58 and a half, so we are getting close – still recovering from the surgery, obviously,” Watt said. “It gave me a chance to reenergize and refocus, so I’m very excited about training, about the season and I almost feel like a young kid again.”

The most impressive of Watt’s feats had to be the tire flip, a workout designed to increase the overall strength and endurance of the upper body, most specifically the back and arms. Varying in weight, the tires looked like they were straight off of monster trucks and he even joked that attendees could pick them up at their local industrial yard. One tire came in at a whopping 1,000 pounds and during one specific workout, Watt was able to flip the humongous tire 67 times – an incredible task.

Workouts like these have been in Watt’s repertoire for quite some time and were implemented by Brad Arnett, Watt’s long-time coach and personal trainer, dating back to when he was a sophomore attending Pewaukee High School in southeastern Wisconsin. It was clear during the event that the two share a special connection, working efficiently on the work at hand, but also poking fun at each other when given the opportunity. And Watt credits Arnett with much of his success over the years.

“[Arnett] is like so many different things to me,” Watt recalled with a smile. “At times he’s like a brother, at times he’s like a father figure, at times he’s like a friend, at times he’s a hard ass, at times he’s a mentor – but we know each other so well and he knows how to push my buttons if I need them pushed. He knows my limits and how to push me past them. I think it’s just something with experience, we’ve grown so much together that he knows things about me before I know them.”

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Watt is like a well-oiled machine thanks to Arnett, complete with a standard routine. He wakes up at around 5:30 a.m., eats breakfast, attends a meeting, starts his workout regimen and then heads home for a nap in the middle of the day. After his nap, Watt jumps back into a workout session before another substantial meal, which is followed up by bedtime at about 9:30 p.m. It’s all in a typical day’s work for Watt, who continues to push himself each and every time he laces up his shoes.

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After simply 30 minutes of Watt’s typical workout, it was clear those in attendance had no chance of getting drafted by an NFL franchise. Out of breath and full of sweat, there was little denying the JJ1’s capabilities as shoe that could handle some of the toughest punishment one’s body can take. Having barely worked up a sweat, Watt was all smiles as things wrapped up, the proud co-inventor of a signature shoe worthy of his name – and one step closer to achieving greatness.

“I was a two-star recruit, I came from a very middle-class family but I wasn’t a superstar, by any means, growing up. The situation I’m in now requires me to adapt, to grow – and I always remember where I came from and I always remember how I got where I am. I apply those values to this lifestyle I have now and, like I said before, I’m not perfect, so I’m not going to always be perfect, but I’m always going try to do what I can to be the superstar that everyone wishes their superstar to be.”


Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports and a movie quote extraordinaire. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photo of J.J. Watt courtesy of Reebok