It used to be that retiring from the NFL was a pretty sad affair. We all have terrible memories of our favorite player looking like a shell of his former self, playing in a different city.
That trend seems to be changing for the better.
Walter Thurmond is the latest to say goodbye to the League before Father Time had a chance to hand the Eagles’ safety a pink slip.
Thurmond did have an injury plagued career, but 2015 was his best season ever. He played in all 16 games, recording career highs in interceptions (3) and total tackles (71).
At 28 years old, he was in his prime. Now he apparently has other interests to pursue and enough money in the bank to keep from clinging to a game he no longer cares to play.
There will still be guys who hang around the NFL way too long. We’ve not seen the last of running backs grinding out two more desperate years in a strange looking uniform like Emmitt Smith did when he left Dallas for Arizona. Yes, that really happened.
And it’s not hard to argue that last year Peyton Manning made himself look pretty damn bad in his 18th year. His defense handed him a Super Bowl on a silver platter, and he even stated as much as he hobbled off into the sunset.
Some of my favorite players ever have not gone out in their prime.
Joe Montana almost took another team to the Super Bowl after leaving San Francisco but wound up a concussion victim at the hands of Buffalo. One game short of a Super Bowl trip as a Chief, and a nasty reminder of how nice it would have been for him to retire after his fourth title as a 49er.
The NFL is still a human meat grinder. Players are used up and tossed aside as soon as they can be replaced.
Eventually, Walter Thurmond would have been on the wrong side of a pink slip. That looked to be years away, but no doubt it would have happened.
Leaving the game on his own terms shows that he was not just a football player. He had sense enough to know he couldn’t play this game forever and is well rounded enough to actually have a life outside pro football.
Money isn’t everything. Even the fame and glory that comes with playing in the NFL are not enough to keep some players hooked in today’s game. The dangers are public knowledge now, not to mention the fact that many younger Americans have begun to question the American dream of chasing dollars.
There will continue to be a stable of guys willing to ram their faces into other men well into their thirties. The NFL product is safe. That’s good for you and me since we’d be lost without pro football.
It’s just good to see more and more guys realize they don’t have to stay in a profession that’s unhealthy for both their mind and body.
Thurmond had endured enough injuries over his six seasons to figure out there were better and safer ways to spend his time. He did what people in everyday jobs are scared to do.
He made a career change….without regard for the cut in pay.