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Cal Football: Evan Weaver Relishes the Chance to Learn from Superstar J.J. Watt

The Hall of Fame-bound defensive end is in his first season with the Arizona Cardinals.

As he prepares to begin his second NFL season with the Arizona Cardinals, Evan Weaver has a new role model to emulate.

J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Cardinals this offseason following 10 years playing for the Houston Texans.

Watt is a 32-year-old defensive end, a five-time, first-team All-Pro who has 101 career sacks and has forced or recovered 41 fumbles.

Weaver is a 22-year-old inside linebacker who is waiting to get onto the field for the first time in an NFL game.

But the former Cal star, who was Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in 2019, says Watt is an invaluable resource.

J.J. Watt

New Arizona Cardinals defensive end  J.J. Watt

“A guy like that, being able to watch him . . . especially the way he practices. He comes every day to work, ready to go,” Weaver said. “I think that’s something I have a little bit of myself. I think it’s something I can really imitate.

“Just being able to know what you’re doing at all times and get it done. We all make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistake twice. I think that’s a huge part of what I’ve got to show going into this training camp.”

Weaver, who spent his rookie season last fall on the Cardinals’ practice squad, had his first interaction with Watt during the team’s mini-camp in early June.

“I talked to him a bunch, asking him questions. Trying to figure out what he does, trying to pick up on some things. Just all ears, trying to soak in as much as possible and figure out how he’s done what he’s done for so long.

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“I think it’s actually helped a bunch and made me grow as a pro a little bit, be able to figure out how to actually function as a pro.”

Part of what’s involved with that is taking advantage of the practice opportunities he gets, and figuring out how to benefit even from the sideline.

“Just being able to focus when you’re on the field, even if you’re not getting the reps. Taking those mental reps.” Weaver said. “There’s not a lot of reps in NFL practices. You might get 12 seven-on-seven plays, and the rest is all walk-through.

“So you’ve got to be able to focus on that and when you’re not in seeing what other people are doing, learning from their mistakes, learning from what they do right.”

Asked what first jumped out about Watt, Weaver said he immediately saw examples of veteran leadership.

“That’s what he does. He knows what he wants to get done and he knows what he wants out of everyone,” Weaver said. “He’s not afraid to get off your ass if you don’t know what you’re doing or if it looks like you’re slacking. That’s something we need on that side of the ball.”

At the same time, Weaver found Watt to be entirely approachable.

“Just to be able to pick a brain like that, be able to ask questions and not just get shunned away from it,” he said. “He doesn’t care of it’s a stupid question. He’ll answer it for you.”

Cover photo of J.J. Watt by George Walker IV, The Tennessean

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo