Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt, the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, offered some sound advice to student-athletes about their social-media presence at the Gatorade Player of the Year awards in Los Angeles on Friday.
In an interview with MaxPreps.com, Watt warned student-athletes to be extremely wary of what they post on their social-media accounts, given how quickly a poorly conceived post can spiral out of control.
“Read each tweet about 95 times before sending it,” Watt said. “Look at every Instagram post about 95 times before you send it. A reputation takes years and years and years to build, and it takes one press of a button to ruin. So don’t let that happen to you.
“If you use it properly, you can use it unbelievably, and you can do great things with social media,” he continued. “You can interact with your fans, and have a lot of fun, and share with the world what you’re doing. But just be very smart about it.”
In the interview, Watt also spoke about what he cherished most from his experience playing high school football, as you can see below:
When asked what general advice he’d give elite high school football players, Watt shared a simple message: Keep working.
“Don’t ever be satisfied. Tonight’s a great night; it’s unbelievable what you’ve accomplished and enjoy that, but don’t let tonight be the highlight of your career,” he said. “Go out there every single day and try to be better. Push yourself even further. You have such a high starting point that the things that you can accomplish can be incredible if you’re willing to put in the work.”
Watt’s advice about social media is particularly noteworthy given the recent admission from University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema, who told reporters during SEC media days last week that he and his staff monitor prospective recruits’ social-media profiles.
“If you have a social-media nickname or something on your Twitter account that makes me sick, I’m not going to recruit you,” Bielema said. “I’ve turned down players based on their Twitter handles. I’ve turned down players based on Twitter pictures. It’s just that’s how I choose to run our program.”
He isn’t the only college football coach keeping an eye on recruits’ social-media accounts, either. Pennsylvania State University offensive line coach Herb Hand tweeted last summer that he stopped pursuing a recruit due to his activity on social media, while University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt admitted last year to having rescinded a scholarship offer to one recruit due to what he was posting on Twitter. Those three assuredly aren’t the lone college coaches to be monitoring social-media posts from potential recruits, either.
Given how quickly a reputation can be shattered from one ill-advised post—see the highly ranked New Jersey cornerback who was expelled from his high school in 2012 for vulgar content on his Twitter account and lost his scholarship offer from the University of Michigan—all student-athletes would be wise to follow Watt’s advice.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.