J.J. Watt's charitable foundation got its start at UW Law School

Behind some good deeds, there’s a lawyer.

When former Badger football player J.J. Watt wanted to set up his charitable foundation, he was still an undergraduate at UW-Madison.

Watt, now a defensive end for the Houston Texans, turned to the student attorneys at UW Law School’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic for help. Today the J.J. Watt Foundation has raised more than $3.8 million for after school athletic programs. Last year, Watt raised more than $37 million to help Hurricane Harvey victims.

And last week, Watt was named the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award that recognizes one NFL player each year, for excellence both on and off the football field.

In honor of his achievement, we’re looking back at Watt’s 2013 visit to UW Law School, when he thanked L&E students and faculty for their support.

J.J. Watt thanks Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic for support

 

J.J. Watt with L&E Clinic students
J.J. Watt (center) stopped by UW Law School to update students on his foundation.

J.J. Watt is a powerhouse on and off the football field, and he has the trophy case to prove it.

The former Badger defensive end was named to the 2013 Pro Bowl and as the 2012 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year after two successful seasons playing for the Houston Texans in the National Football League. But the Pewaukee native is also about giving back.

Almost three years ago, Watt turned to the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic at the University of Wisconsin Law School for help setting up a nonprofit to fund after-school sports programs.

"It’s a different day in America,” says Watt, who was the first Wisconsin player to receive the Lott IMPACT Trophy that recognizes defensive college players for exemplary athletic performance and personal character. “Schools are cutting all kinds of programs, the kinds of programs I lived for as a kid."

Watt visited the Law School April 3 to update L&E students on his charity, the Justin J. Watt Foundation, and to thank them for their support.

"The foundation wouldn’t be here without the help of the clinic," Watt says. "With all the paperwork we were facing, we wouldn't have known what we were looking at, what we were up against or what we needed to do."

Navigating NCAA rules was the first challenge, says 2011 Law School graduate Richelle Martin, Watt’s student attorney through the L&E Clinic.

"At every stage, we had to prove to the NCAA that our services were available to the entire community," says Martin, who now serves on the foundation's board of directors.

The foundation has provided jerseys, flag football flags and balls to 30 public schools in Milwaukee, funded five after-school soccer programs in Racine, and has recently expanded its reach to Texas.

"The Houston fan base is just nuts," Watt says.

A charity softball game planned for later this month has raised nearly $200,000 through sponsorships and ticket sales, Watt says.

The Justin J. Watt Foundation was the first nonprofit project the clinic accepted, but it has since seen an increase in the number of nonprofit proposals it receives, says Anne Smith, co-director of the L&E Clinic.

"There's a great need for legal support for nonprofit ventures, but we have to be selective," Smith says. "We want to make sure the clinic takes on projects that are likely to succeed."

--April 9, 2013

Submitted by Law School News on February 7, 2018

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