Hard Knocks Tackles Texan Power With NFL Star Player J.J. Watt

Rob Moynihan
J.J. Watt, houston texans Premiere
Aaron M. Sprecher/AP Images

Saddle up! HBO’s NFL documentary series Hard Knocks rolls in to the Lone Star State this season for an inside look at the Houston Texans training camp. “They say everything is bigger in Texas,” says NFL Films supervising producer Ken Rodgers. “The same is going to be true for Hard Knocks this year, because there are some larger-than-life characters who really have the possibility of making a great series.”

One of the characters who will certainly make a big impact is the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. The 288-pound defensive end not only recorded 20 sacks last season, but he also lined up on offense and caught three passes for touchdowns. “The J.J. Watt you see is as personable and intense in real life as he is on television,” Rodgers says. “He has a motor physically, mentally and emotionally to keep pushing harder to a level that I haven’t seen in many players. It’s an infectious attitude to excel.”

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While the Texans may dominate on defense, questions surround their offense, specifically the starting quarterback. After rotating through four different players at that position last season, second-year head coach Bill O’Brien will be forced to choose between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett by opening day. “We don’t know when that decision is coming,” Rodgers says. The coaches must also fill an offensive hole created by the departure of veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, who signed with the rival Indianapolis Colts during the off-season. “[The Texans have] a deep bench, and that battle for who makes the team at wide receiver is going to be an all-out war until the final week,” Rodgers adds.

The Hard Knocks producers also face their own battle: In the month leading up to the start of the regular season in September, Rodgers and his team sift through more than 300 hours of footage to put together one hour-long episode each week. “So much of training camp is repetition,” Rodgers says. “It’s a very serious business, like high school and college combined. It’s very intense.” Game on.

Hard Knocks, Season premiere, Tuesday, August 11, 10/9c, HBO