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Why I Retired At 26 - Rashard Mendenhall

Why I Retired At 26 Rashard Mendenhall


Over my career, because of my interests in dance, art and literature, my very calm demeanor, and my apparent lack of interest in sporting events on my Twitter page, people in the sporting world have sometimes questioned whether or not I love the game of football. I do. I always have. I am an athlete and a competitor. The only people who question that are the people who do not see how hard I work and how diligently I prepare to be great -- week after week, season after season. I take those things very seriously. I've always been a professional. But I am not an entertainer. I never have been. Playing that role was never easy for me. The box deemed for professional athletes is a very small box. My wings spread a lot further than the acceptable athletic stereotypes and conformity was never a strong point of mine. My focus has always been on becoming a better me, not a second-rate somebody else. Sometimes I would suffer because of it, but every time I learned a lesson from it. And I'll carry those lessons with me for the rest of my life.

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.

As for the question of what will I do now, with an entire life in front of me? I say to that, I will LIVE! I plan to live in a way that I never have before, and that is freely, able to fully be me, without the expectation of representing any league, club, shield or city. I do have a plan going forward, but I will admit that I do not know how things will totally shape out. That is the beauty of it! I look forward to chasing my desires and passions without restriction, and to sharing them with anyone who wants to come along with me! And I'll start with writing!

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Great article, but there's something he's not saying.

He got his rookie contract before the league set salaries low for players for their first three years.

As a result, when he was drafted 23rd by the Pittsburgh Steelers he got a five-year, $12 million contract right out of the gate:

Today's rookies do not have the option to retire at 26 like Rashard just did unless they somehow manage to negotiate an awesome contract after their first three or four years, play a year or two, and retire mid-contract.

It does seem like the new salary rules really hurt the rookies because the ones who get hurt in the first few years of their careers don't make enough.

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