Sports

She tried to sell her JJ Watt merch to pay for a funeral. Then the NFL star stepped up

Thanks to her football idol, Jennifer Simpson is one step closer to being able to pay for her grandfather’s funeral.

The Texas woman has been helping to organize a funeral for Jerry Paul Roderick Sr., who died on June 20, but her family was struggling to cover the costs.

After several fundraising attempts failed to pay off, Simpson—who is a huge fan of National Football League player JJ Watt—took to Twitter to sell her Watt jersey and limited-edition branded sneakers from his time with the Houston Texans.

Shortly after she posted the tweet looking for buyers, the NFL star himself responded: “Don’t sell your shoes and jersey, we’ll help with the funeral. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“I was in shock,” Simpson told As It Happens guest host David Cochrane. “Seeing that the celebrity who doesn’t even know us — my family, my grandpa, anything like that — would just help us, I was just overwhelmed with emotions.”

Simpson told her aunt, Tara Roderick, the good news. At first, she didn’t believe it.

“I called her a liar,” said Roderick, who is Roderick Sr.’s daughter.

“And then she feels [proof that] he had actually sent the funds to help … and I almost passed out, almost had a heart attack.”

Roderick and Simpson would not say exactly how much money Watt sent, saying they don’t know if he’d want that information shared publicly. They say they’re still short the full funeral costs, but since Watt’s public act of generosity, other people have reached out online and offered to help.

Jerry Paul Roderick Sr., died on June 20. His daughter says he was the kind of man who would do anything for anyone. (Submitted by Tara Roderick)

Watt did not respond to a request for comment. But the NFL star’s philanthropic streak is well known.

The Arizona Cardinals player raised money for Hurricane Harvey recovery in Houston while playing for the state’s football team in 2017.

More recently, he helped cover the funeral costs of the victims of the 2021 Waukesha parade attack in his home state of Wisconsin.

A young woman with glasses and an older man press their faces together and smile for the camera.
Tara Roderick, left, says her father was her hero. (Submitted by Tara Roderick)

But Roderick is still shocked that Watt stepped in to help a complete stranger from Twitter.

“He don’t know my dad. He don’t know the story about my dad. He don’t know who my dad was. For him just to say ‘I will help,’ it was just heartwarming,” she said.

It’s fitting, Roderick says, as her father was the kind of man who would do anything for anybody. He raised her by himself after her mother died when Roderick was a child.

“I mean, even if it was his last, he would give it to you,” Roderick said. “[He] was my hero. No matter what, he never gave up on me.”


Written by Olsy Sorokina with files from Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Jennifer Simpson and Tara Roderick produced by Arman Aghbali.

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