J.J. Watt's Decision to Retire Was Largely Because 'He Wanted to Be with Koa,' Says Wife Kealia

JJ Watt Greeted on Field By Son Koa
JJ Watt Greeted on Field By Son Koa

JJ Watt/instagram

There were multiple factors that went into J.J. Watt's decision to retire from the NFL in December, but "a huge part" was his desire to be home with their 3-month-old son Koa, his wife Kealia Ohai Watt says.

"I think that there were obviously many things that went into his decision," Kealia, 31, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. "I know he wanted to be with Koa."

The professional soccer player adds, "The way it worked out, it was just the perfect time and it couldn't have been better for us and Koa."

In addition to spending more time with Koa, Kealia says the timing of her husband's retirement also aligned "with his body," after 12 seasons in the NFL. "It just all kind of lined up right as it should have," she says.

RELATED: JJ Watt Feeds Son Koa Before His Final NFL Game in Sweet Photo from Wife Kealia: 'We Love You'

JJ Watt and Kealia Watt Welcome Their First Baby
JJ Watt and Kealia Watt Welcome Their First Baby


J.J. still "has so much he wants to do moving forward," says Kealia, who calls life in the NFL a "physically and mental demanding job."

As a father, Kealia says J.J. is "such a great dad" and "so hands-on," with Koa, who the athlete missed during his busy schedule while playing in the NFL. "When JJ was in season, I know it was really hard for him," Kealia shares. "He genuinely wants to spend time with Koa and it was really hard for him because he was really pulled in two directions."

Now, J.J. has the opportunity to "spend real time with Koa and just be his dad," says Kealia.

RELATED: J.J. Watt Brought to Tears by Tom Brady and Friends in Touching Tribute Video Before Final NFL Game

The newfound free time is different for the couple, however. "Since we've met each other, we've never been in a spot like this where we don't have a schedule every day throughout the year," she explains. "It's kind of a weird feeling," Kealia admits.

Kealia is currently a free agent after playing for the Chicago Red Stars in 2020-21. She tells PEOPLE she hasn't decided what the future of her competitive career will look like just yet. "I still need to figure out if I want to play," she shares.

RELATED VIDEO: JJ Watt Says Soccer Star Wife Kealia Ohai Is the Better Athlete: 'Speed and Agility'

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Kealia is taking advantage of this time to work with Cord Blood Registry to share the benefits of cord banking, which can be used to treat a number of conditions including cancer, spinal cord injuries and, hopefully soon, Alzheimer's.

And for now, the Watts are happy in Arizona. "We love it here and I know we'll stay here for a while," she says.

The last few months have been "pretty crazy" for the family, so now they're enjoying the stillness. "We don't have a schedule. We can do, at least for the next little bit, whatever we want. So that's been cool to just be with Koa and just enjoy time with him," she says.

For more on Kealia and J.J. Watt's life as new parents, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.