A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

Texans' J.J. Watt wins the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award thanks to his fundraising efforts for Harvey relief

J.J. Watt had his impact off the field in 2017. Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated

J.J. Watt is the NFL’s Man of the Year.

The Texans defensive lineman won the Walter Payton Award Saturday night during the NFL Honors show, beating out Panthers tight end Greg Olsen and Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson. Both were deserving, but Watt’s efforts after Hurricane Harvey all but made him a shoo-in.

As the damage from the storm was becoming clear, Watt posted a video online with a goal of raising $200,000 to help the city recover from Harvey’s devastation. Watt’s efforts drew national attention, and 19 days later he had raised an amazing $37 million, with donations from many celebrities from all over the country. Watt became one of the faces of recovery in the storm’s aftermath, giving hope to a battered city.

When Watt was named one of the three finalists, he tweeted out this: “Humbled & honored to even be mentioned in the same breath as Walter Payton. Also happy to share the nomination with @BenjaminSWatson and @gregolsen88 who are both extremely deserving. This is so much bigger than just one man. It’s about the good in all of humanity.”

Olsen and Watson have helped numerous people through their charitable foundations and epitomize what is best in people. Watt put an entire city on his shoulders in the aftermath of a disaster and made the world take notice.

The 28-year-old Watt would go on to miss most of the 2017 season with a broken leg. A three-time defensive player of the year, Watt has been the face of the franchise for most of his Texans career, which began in 2011. But his off-field efforts were much more important.

On the field, the Texans are hoping a healthy Watt and quarterback Deshaun Watson can propel them back to the playoffs next year.

Off the field, they already have a champion.

Many Houston athletes stepped up in the wake of the storm, but Watt’s contributions will not soon be forgotten. The NFL got it right by naming him the Walter Payton Man of the Year. For all Watt has done on the field, he will always be remembered for his efforts off it when a city needed him the most.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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