JJ Watt gives big gift and huge lift to Kentucky school

Updated: Feb. 9, 2018 at 5:34 PM EST
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Athletic Director Jesse Barnett (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Athletic Director Jesse Barnett (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Tyler Barrow (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Tyler Barrow (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Tanyia Weathers (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Tanyia Weathers (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Jaden Vittitow (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)
Jaden Vittitow (Source: James Thomas, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Known as much for his charitable giving as he is for his talent, Houston Texans star JJ Watt is the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey victims. Now, the Texas talent is focused on a JCPS school and that superstar attention has students feeling like MVPs.

From basketball to track, cheerleading to cross country and football to soccer, the TT Knight Bobcats take pride in their school and they do a lot with very little.

"We are a Title I school, and we have to prioritize a whole lot about how we spend our money," explained Cathy Gibbs, principal at Knight Middle School.

Unfortunately, that means money doesn't really exist outside the classroom. When it comes to athletics, it's hard for kids to hold their heads high in 10 to 15-year-old uniforms.

"They have holes in them, they're deteriorating," said Jesse Barnett, athletic director at Knight Middle.

It's especially hard when opposing teams can't help but notice their torn pants and faded jerseys.

"They'll look at you, they won't say nothing but they'll look at it and some of the pants, the padding comes out," said Tyler Barrow, an 8th
grader. "It's just not right."

The basketball team and cheerleaders have mismatched uniforms.

"We went out on the court and had different jerseys on," 6th grade basketball player Tanyia Weathers said.

"It's kind of embarrassing when people would come in and they already beat us in style, and that felt like it brought down our confidence a little," 7th grader Jaden Vittitow added.

Barnett had about all he could take.

"To see the look on the kids' faces, is just sad," Barnett said.

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Barnett heard about the JJ Watt Foundation grant for school athletics and the former minister made an impassioned plea for his kids.

"I told our story, sent pictures of our uniforms and they called me back in early January and said we were a finalist," Barnett said.

An email from the Watt family came sometime later saying $11,000 was on the way.

"I got a text from him (Barnett) that said, 'we got it,'" Gibbs remembered as she was at a restaurant watching JJ Watt win the Walter Payton NFL Man of the year honor. "I announced to the restaurant, Oh my gosh ... that man just gave my school $11,000!"

"It's just amazing because he chose my school," said Tyler Barrow.

"There's millions of schools that's in the United States that he could have picked and he picked our school," said Weathers who couldn't believe the news.

"I couldn't believe it," Vittitow said. "He's like an all-star football player, he's in the NFL and he's picking us? He's donating money to us out of all the schools in the country, it's just unbelievable."

"We just celebrated that day," Barnett said, "and it was just amazing that somebody like JJ Watt would care enough for a school in Kentucky and a middle school, it was just phenomenal!"

Barrow says he wants to give Watt a hug and thank him for everything he's doing for his school. Gibbs agreed and said of the students, "They're very proud of our school and what we do, but those new uniforms are going to make a big difference because now we're going to
look like the other kids do."

The check has already been sent to Shively Sporting Goods and the uniforms will be ordered soon.

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