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J.J. Watt's covert T-shirt plan to keep his free-agent destination secret

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J.J. Watt shares his funny strategy for keeping his decision under wraps (1:10)

J.J. Watt reveals the extreme lengths he went to while trying to make sure his decision to sign with the Cardinals did not get leaked. (1:10)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Before announcing his signing with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, pass-rusher J.J. Watt wanted to keep his free-agency recruitment a secret. For most of the process, he was successful, but he ran into one last snag that could have spoiled his covert operation.

After narrowing his list of finalists to "four or five" teams, Watt wanted to order shirts with each team's logo emblazoned on one of them so that when the time came, he could throw one on, hop under a squat bar and take the photo that would help him break the news himself. "Take control of your own narrative" is how Watt put it. But he was worried that someone in an Amazon fulfillment center might see his name when he ordered the shirts and would blow the whole thing up.

After all, news of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes' record deal last summer was leaked first by a liquor store clerk.

So, Watt asked one of his brother’s friends to do all the dirty work.

"This is kind of funny," Watt said. "It's kind of stupid, too, but whatever."

Watt enlisted the help of Joe, one of his brothers' high school friends, to buy the shirts on Amazon with his credit card, have them shipped to his house and then taken to Watt's house.

"Shout out to Doug and Joe for making this happen," Watt said. "I appreciate you guys. They're the true brains behind the shirt that I wore for the workout."

It might seem to have been Watt pulling a fast one on Amazon, but it wasn’t as seamless as it's made out to be.

"It wasn't that smooth behind the scenes," Watt said. "I'm not gonna lie, seeing my friend Joe try and figure out how to use Amazon was a pretty nice treat in its own right."

When Watt asked for and was granted his release from the Houston Texans on Feb. 12, he was excited to see what free agency had in store.

"As a fan of sports in general, I was excited to go through it, just to see what free agency is like," he said. "I think as a player and also just as a fan, you kind of always wonder what's that actually like for the player? What's it like when your agents are calling you? What's it like when teams are calling and offering? Or you have fan bases on social media and you have news reports and fake news reports and real news reports? Just, there's so many different things that go into it."

Well, Watt got what he asked for.

And while he wanted to keep the entire process quiet, he didn’t realize how quiet it actually was until he tweeted a photo of him in a Cardinals T-shirt under a squat bar on Monday. That tweet had more than 312,000 likes.

"We kept it very quiet on our side," he said. "Everything from who was involved to what was involved to everything. There was a lot of rumors and reports and everything, but for us, on our end, it was just funny to sit back and kind of watch it all play out because we knew who was actually in it, how it all goes and everything.

"We were just sitting there and staying quiet the whole time, and then at the very end, when I decided that Arizona was the place, we realized how quiet it had truly been on that front."