Trent Jordan Watt is the youngest of three football playing brothers.
He followed his two older brothers footsteps and suited up and stepped on the gridiron at the University of Wisconsin.
Although he’s now known as an All-Pro, All-World outside linebacker, he actually started his college career as a tight end.
The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native suffered a serious knee injury in 2014 and was out of commission until late 2015. At the time of this return to action, he was asked by the Wisconsin coaching staff to switch to the defensive side of the ball. After some growing pains at the outset, the youngest Watt blossomed into an All-American. Watt received first team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated and second team honors by the Associated Press for his play during the 2016 season. He was also named First Team All-Big Ten that year.
He would forego his senior season and make the jump to the National Football League. The Badger had a banner NFL rookie combine, posting numbers comparable to some of the all-time greats. He was selected 30th overall in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Watt was quickly named the starter at outside linebacker over Steelers all time great James Harrison.
His rookie season included seven sacks, ten tackles for loss and an interception. He followed up his rookie campaign with NFL All Pro nods in 2018 and 2019 and was well on his way to being one of the top linebackers in the game.
Just when you thought you’d seen Watt excel, he took his game to a completely new level in 2020 as the Steelers peeled off ten straight wins to start the season.
Below you will find a three-tiered Watt Rookie Review full of great options of T.J. trading cards to add your collection at various price points.
2017 Immaculate Collection #165 T.J. Watt AU RC #/99
This is a nice horizontally designed card of the rookie, showcasing the Steelers classic yellow with an acetate finish and an on card auto and serial numbered to just 99 copies. The image is of Watt in what appears to be training camp just getting ready to make his mark on the league. Definitely a top-tier TJ rookie card from a top-tier product. You can can sometimes find one on eBay and prices are still generally within reach.
2017 Panini National Treasures #203 T.J. Watt JSY AU RC #/99
National Treasures is yet another eagerly anticipated, high-end release by Panini each and every year. This TJ card pictures him in his official Steelers uniform featuring a nice jersey piece accompanied by a sticker auto, also numbered to 99. This is a great option for a higher end Watt rookie representing a player who could be a future face of the league. Expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars or more.
2017 Panini Majestic #158 T.J. Watt AU/25 RC
One might wonder how a Majestic card lands in the top tier of this Rookie Card review. The simple fact that it’s a true RC with a mere 25 copies in existence. While it pictures him in his college uniform and carries a sticker auto, the card offers a smoky, dark card design that stands out. You will never find more than one or two available online at any given time. This is among the scarcest Watt rookies out in the wild.
Steelers Starter Tier
2017 Panini Contenders #102 T.J. Watt AU RC EXCH
This card initially came through as a redemption. That in and of itself can be a dirty word in today’s hobby but this one worked out for collectors. It hails from one of the hobby’s all-time great franchises in Contenders with the ever-popular Rookie Ticket design accompanied by a sticker autograph and a shot of a young Watt in mid rush, firing on all cylinders. These are always in high demand but it’s a good choice for the long haul if you can find one.
2017 Prestige #293 T.J. Watt RC SP
Prestige is yet another brand that’s not commonly found on the mid to higher end of our rookie tiers but again, due to the pure scarcity of this example, it finds itself on the higher end of the spectrum. If you are a serious Watt watcher, you might want to jump on one.
2017 Panini Impeccable #171 T.J. Watt AU RC
The Impeccable Watt rookie is a nice, mid-upper to upper tier product. The line is famous for its artistic feel as it appears the photo is painted on canvas. As with the vast majority of his rookies, it features a sticker auto and a very low serial number. A great mid to upper tier selection that’s usually well under $100. Pounce on it like Watt pounces on unsuspecting quarterbacks.
Pewaukee High School Tier
2017 Panini Prizm #216 T.J. Watt RC
Prizm continues to be a go-to product for collectors and rookie card prospectors seeking a mid to lower tier product. There are plenty of parallels to chase if you want but the 2017 version features the classic chromium design with a nice image of Watt ready to take down a helpless ball carrier. Clean, classic and relatively cheap…for now.
2017 Donruss Optic #122 T.J. Watt RC
The shiny brother of Donruss, the Optic line has really come into its own in recent years. This product always has growth potential and as Watt continues to grow, so will this card. The base card and its parallels are all readily available and extremely affordable.
2017 Crown Royale #96 T.J. Watt RC
What has become a trademark of this brand, the crown, can really be pulled off nicely in certain circumstances. This is a bit of understated version of the line. It’s a very nice low end TJ Watt rookie if it can be had for a few bucks.
You can check out all of T.J.Watt’s rookie cards on eBay here and see a list of all of the ‘most watched’ Watt rookie cards at auction in the list below.