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NFL star J.J. Watt tears up recalling heart health scare: ‘I’m happy to be here’

The Arizona Cardinals defensive end held back tears when he spoke to reporters after Sunday's win against the Carolina Panthers.

Emotions were running high for J.J. Watt after returning to the football field Oct. 2, just days after a heart scare left him fearing for his future — both on and off the field.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 28, the Arizona Cardinals defensive end went into a type of heart arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation and later had his heart "shocked" back into normal rhythm, as he explained in a tweet from Oct. 2.

“I talked to cardiologists and electrophysiologists from all over the country,” Watt told reporters after Sunday’s face-off against the Carolina Panthers, explaining why he decided to get back into the game so soon. “I was assured multiple times by multiple people that there was nothing else to do — go back and do like normal.”

Arizona Cardinals v Carolina Panthers
J.J. Watt #99 of the Arizona Cardinals walks off the field after the first half against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Oct. 2, 2022, in Charlotte, North Carolina.Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia, occurs when the heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly and cause problems with the flow of blood into the heart’s lower chambers.

Watt said that, in his case, the cause of the incident was unknown.

"It could happen again the next day, or it could happen never again in 20 years," he said. 

Although he's feeling better now, Watt confessed that the incident shook him.

"I’ve had surgeries before. I’ve had injuries before, and I’ve never been nervous for any of them," he said. "I’ve never been scared of anesthesia. I’ve never been scared of surgery. I’ve never been scared of pain. But when they told me they were going to put me out and shock my heart, I was scared." 

Especially as he and wife Kealia Ohai will soon welcome their first child to the world. She's due in October 2022, according to an Instagram post from June.

“For months we’ve been looking at ultrasounds of our baby boy, and they’re all extremely happy, and then Thursday we were looking at an ultrasound of my heart,” Watt said, holding back tears. “It was very tough. ... But I’m happy to be here.”

When a reporter in the crowd asked if Watt thought about not playing in Sunday's game, the emotional NFL star confessed, “Yeah, I did.”

However, he wanted to get back to the sport he loves, for himself and his teammates.

NFL: OCT 02 Cardinals at Panthers
Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers runs the ball as J.J. Watt of the Arizona Cardinals dives to make a tackle during the game between the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals.David Jensen / Getty Images

"I don’t know what else to do," he said. "I’ve been playing this game my whole life." 

In fact, it was his goal was to keep on playing it without his fans even finding out about what had happened days earlier.

In a tweet prior to kick-off, Watt wrote, "I was just told somebody leaked some personal information about me and it’s going to be reported on today. I went into A-Fib on Wednesday, had my heart shocked back into rhythm on Thursday and I'm playing today."

He hoped the news wouldn't distract from what his team went on to accomplish in their 26-16 win against the Panthers.

"That’s honestly part of the reason I’m upset that it leaked," he told reporters. "Because I don’t want to take away from these guys."