Rashard Mendenhall’s retirement from the NFL has caused quite a stir. He’s young, still very agile and talented and could make a few more millions before the age of 30 if he decides to stay in the NFL. Yet he’s chosen leave the game at the age of 26. In a blog he wrote for the Huffington Post he explained his reasons for retiring with a sense of maturity and a clear understanding of the game of football.

“I feel like I’ve done it all,” he wrote. “I’ve been to two Super Bowls; made a bunch of money; had a lot of success; traveled all over the country and overseas; met some really cool people; made lasting relationships; had the opportunity to give back to causes close to my heart; and have been able to share my experiences and wisdom with friends, family and people all over the world.”

He not only understands the game of football, but he understands and has been impacted by the dark side of ignorant fans who will never be bold enough to spew their hate publicly:

“Imagine having a job where you’re always on duty, and can never fully relax or you just may drown,” he wrote. “Having to fight through waves and currents of praise and criticism, but mostly hate. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been called a ‘dumb n—–’. There is a bold coarseness you receive from non-supporters that seems to only exist on the Internet. …Over my career, I would learn that everything people say behind these computer and smartphones actually shape the perception of you — the brand, the athlete and the person.”

His last statement, in my opinion, really shows the level of maturity he’s attained and a wisdom not often seen in NFL players his age.

So when they ask me why I want to leave the NFL at the age of 26, I tell them that I’ve greatly enjoyed my time, but I no longer wish to put my body at risk for the sake of entertainment. I think about the rest of my life and I want to live it with much quality. And physically, I am grateful that I can walk away feeling as good as I did when I stepped into it.”

Mendenhall seems to understand what fans may miss: the NFL loves the game–not necessarily the players. The game favors owners and even fans and profits over players who make the most sacrifice. The lack of adequate medical care post career and issues with head trauma are only the tip of the iceberg. Understanding this before entering the game could and perhaps should shape the way players plan out their professional careers.

It’s important to understand the NFL machine, and before the game takes more than it can give back, Mendenhall wants to leave able to enjoy the rest of his life and the fruits of his early labor. He can pursue other interests and be successful in other areas. I am very happy for him. He seems satisfied in his decision and his level of insight is just refreshing.

I look forward to good things from Mendenhall in the future.

What do you think?

Your Jersey Girlfriend,

~Angela Davis

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