More than one football: Some Texans, Jaguars are big soccer fans

DeAndre Hopkins talks to young soccer players in Houston during an event last summer in a partnership with the German football club Bayern Munich. Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

LONDON -- For Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, learning about the "other" football made him feel like a kid again.

"I started watching the Premier League probably like six or seven years ago now. I just got curious about it," said Watt, whose team will be playing this weekend at London's Wembley Stadium, one of the most famous football stadiums in the world. "I know everything about American sports -- football, basketball, baseball, hockey. I kind of have an idea how the contracts work and how the systems work and the teams and everything, and I knew nothing about the Premier League.

"So, for me, it was a chance to be a brand-new fan. It was like being a kid and learning something brand new all over again. So, I got to learn about promotion and relegation, transfer fees and all these different things."

Watt didn't make the trip to England, however, because he won't be playing on Sunday when the Texans face the Jacksonville Jaguars (9:30 a.m. ET, NFL Network). He had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn pectoral muscle. But Watt is certainly not alone among the Texans in his affection for soccer. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said that while Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo is his favorite soccer player right now, he wears No. 10 because of Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones was hooked after seeing a match in Jacksonville in 2014.

Because the London trip is short, players don’t expect to have time to catch a soccer match. But they talked to ESPN about why they love the sport.

Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson

Which is your favorite club?

"FC Bayern Munich."

Have you been to a match?

“Yeah, I went to a match my rookie year, and I went to the facility. We threw the football around, played soccer, they took me out, spent like maybe a week over there. Then, when those guys came over and played against Real Madrid -- I also know a couple of people on Real Madrid. They came over when they played in Houston that day, I hung out with them, saw them in L.A. a couple of times. So I'm real close to a lot of those players on that team.”

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt

[Editor's note: This interview was done before Watt tore his pectoral muscle on Sunday.]

How did you become a fan of Chelsea F.C.?

“The first game I ever got to go to in the Premier League was at Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge. It was [Didier] Drogba’s last game there and he got carried off the field and they won the Premier League, so they were lifting the trophy. I just caught them at the right time and decided to become a fan of them.

"But really, more so I'm a fan of the whole Premier League. I love watching it. I love watching the bottom of the table, I love watching the top of the table, I love watching the championship in Ligue 1 to see who's going to come up. Just the part that really enthralls me about it is the consequences of what can happen. If you lose, you're literally out of the league. It's not like you just get the first draft pick and you're back -- you're out of the league and you have to earn your way back in. I thought that's such an incredible competition, and there's nothing else like that in the world. Then, the fans over there are just insane, and they literally live and die with their team, so it captured me."

Did you become a bigger fan of soccer when you started dating [Houston Dash midfielder] Kealia Ohai?

"We obviously love watching it, and I learned even more about the game from having conversations with her and watching her games and talking tactics and talking different things. I know a whole lot more about soccer than I ever thought I would in my life. It really is a lot of fun. I had the old adage of, 'They never score any goals, it's so boring to watch,' but now that I actually understand how the game works and the flow and the tactics, now I love watching it, and I watch it every weekend."

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins

What do you like about soccer?

“I like the individualism about it. I like how each player is kind of different. It’s a team sport, but still, once you’ve got the ball in your hand, you can kind of create things. But I like the team dynamic about it also. You’ve got to work together in soccer to score a goal.

“I like good games. Some of the best games have been 0-1. I get excited when you get the whole setup of a goal and the whole play just being set up, and you kind of know if you watch soccer, 'OK, they’ve got the advantage right here.' It’s dope, because I play sports, so I can see things. Like when something might not work, but they’ll go back to it.”

Jaguars defensive tackle Abry Jones

How did you get into soccer?

"I became a soccer fan in, like, 2012. Started playing the FIFA video game, and when I first got here ... Team USA played somebody here [USA beat Nigeria 2-1 in a friendly on June 7, 2014, in Jacksonville], and I saw it live and I saw my first live goal, and ever since then, I've been hooked."

Which club is your favorite?

"Real Madrid. My favorite player is Marcelo, the left-back for Real. I just like defense, and he's a great defender .... He does so much from the back end. He plays defense. He controls the whole left side of the field. He drops off assists. He has great control with the ball.

“... Second is Roberto Carlos -- he played for Real Madrid, he was a [left-]back, and he had this one little free kick in the World Cup that was probably the craziest kick ever. He kicked it right, and it came all the way and went in on the left side of the net. ... After I got into it, watched a whole bunch of YouTube videos, found some people I liked, and I've just been a fan ever since."

ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco contributed to this report.