PLANO — There was a “subdued excitement” around lunch time at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday.
The Houston Texans found out they were going home. A safe route from North Texas to Houston was finally available, and after days of worrying about their flood-ravaged city from afar the players, coaches, and staff were going to return home to their friends, family, and the relief efforts.
Sure, it came at the expense of an NFL preseason game that was moved from Houston to Arlington, but at a time like this a glorified scrimmage is far from the biggest concern.
“I think it’s the right decision. Everybody here is obviously most concerned about their families, their friends, the city of Houston back home,” Texans star JJ Watt said on Wednesday after the cancellation was announced. “I think it’s extremely important that we get home as quickly as we possibly can and I know we’re all excited to get back there and see our people.
“But then to get there and start helping. I know my guys, the team has been incredible throughout the whole thing,” Watt continued. “Everyone is asking how they can help, what they can do. Very very excited to get back there, be with our city and help our city get rebuilt.”
Watt has taken a hands-on approach to the recovery effort.
On Sunday Watt posted a video on Twitter and started a fundraising campaign with an initial goal of $200,000. That initial goal was reached in less than two hours, so Watt raised the ante to $500,000.
The goal was soon raised to $1 million, then $2 millions, and kept going up as funds poured in. Donations continued to rise and Watt kept pushing the goal higher, leading to the current target he announced on Wednesday.
“We’ve upped the goal to $10 million because everything is bigger in Texas,” Watt said. “Why not? Let’s shoot for $10 million and see what we can do.”
Watt has already started mobilizing efforts to use the funds to help the city regroup and eventually recover. Semi Trucks were already being loaded with supplies on Wednesday afternoon to be driven to Houston, where Watt and his teammates plan to pass things out directly this weekend.
“The goal this weekend, we’re going to get those trucks down there by this weekend. And hopefully the tentative plan is Sunday we’re going to have a bunch of my teammates are going to help me out in a few different locations around town to be determined and we’re going to hand out supplies,” Watt said.
For Watt it’s important to share the support and how the funds are used. He’s encouraging donors to put their name on the donations, no matter how small, so they can be recognized and he’s working with a team of experts to make sure that hardest hit areas get the support they need.
“The whole process I’m going to keep the people updated. I want these people to know there money is going directly to the people of Houston. I want them to see it’s going directly to people,” Watt said. “And when I say Houston, I mean Rockport. I mean Victoria. Things like that. It’s not just Houston metropolitan, it’s everywhere.”
It’s bigger than football, and Watt said while it’s been difficult to watch from afar, some of the stories of heroism from the flood have brought a silver lining to a very difficult situation.
“It’s an unbelievable thing to witness what happens in a time of crisis. The most difficult times bring out the best in humanity,” Watt said. “We are seeing humans helping humans. It doesn’t matter rich, poor, black, white. It doesn’t matter, everybody is helping everybody.”