Quarterback Jake Locker: four seasons, 26 years old.
Linebacker Jason Worilds: five seasons, 27 years old.
Linebacker Patrick Willis: eight seasons (7 Pro Bowl appearances), 30 years old.
What is one thing that all three of the above NFL players have in common? All three of the young-ish players made the shocking decision to walk away from the game of professional football, hanging up their cleats for good.
Both Locker and Worilds were set to be unrestricted free agents, and Worilds was set to reel in a big-time contract after making $9.754 million last season under the Pittsburgh Steelers’ franchise-tag designation.
But what people don’t seem to understand, is that this is a trend that could just be getting it’s start––retiring early. After all of the talk about the day-to-day struggles from former pro football players (remember this interview I did with Keith McCants a few weeks ago?) current players finally seem to be taking notice.
So while Willis was well on his way to a potential Hall of Fame career during his eight seasons donning a San Francisco 49ers uniform, the 30-year old made a very smart decision. In his retirement press conference yesterday, Willis stated his foot had been giving him troubles, and he felt this was the correct decision. To walk away while he’s still in good health. His foot is what prevented him from playing in 10 games a season ago.
Worilds, leaving millions on the table, has stated he has other interests he’d like to pursue. If he’s smart, he’ll make his $9+ million from 2014 last him a while. It looks as if he’ll be spending his post-football playing days wisely, working for his religion––Jehovah’s Witnesses.
As for Locker, he claims he no longer has the desire to play football anymore. And after the beating he took during his 23 career starts (and 30 total games) in Tennessee over four seasons, which includes 60 sacks, let’s hope he still has his health in somewhat decent condition.
Hell, even former Jaguars and Raiders RB Maurice Jones-Drew called it quits after nine seasons last week, just a few weeks shy of his 30th birthday.
The smart professional football players will hopefully realize that the millions of dollars they’re making isn’t worth the 30+ years of suffering they’ll endure once their career is over with. So, if you ask me for my honest opinion, we’ll be seeing plenty more early retirements in the years to come around the National Football League.
Photo: Wade Payne/Associated Press