Let’s Be Clear: Rashard Mendenhall Played Almost Twice As Long As The Average NFL Running Back
Rashard Mendenhall is done with football at age 26, opting to retire from the NFL after six seasons. Though he originally planned on just "disappearing" from the football scene, he ended up writing a thoughtful op-ed in the Huffington Post about his decision to walk away. But let's be clear: Mendenhall hardly retired early. In fact, he lasted nearly twice as long as the average running back does at the the NFL level.
In his piece, Mendenhall addresses the opportunity he leaves on the table by not continuing his NFL career:
"Why would you stop now? You're only 26 years old! You're just going to walk away from millions of dollars? Is your knee fully healed? You had a pretty good year last year," etc. After the initial shock response and realization that I'm not kidding, the question that would continue to arise is: Why?
"Why do you want to stop playing football at 26?"
Mendenhall's answers that question in a number of ways: he grew tired of of the entertainment/business side of the game; he grew tired of the hate; he wanted to spend more time developing his other passions, such as writing and traveling. But frankly, 26 is a perfectly reasonable age to retire if you're a running back. Look at this chart from the Best Tickets blog, which calculated the average career lengths of every NFL position:
At 3.11 years, running backs have the shortest careers in the league, and it's not even close. After five seasons with the Steelers and one with the Cardinals, Mendenhall had double the career that many RBs do. By leaving now, Mendenhall gets to say this: "And physically, I am grateful that I can walk away feeling as good as I did when I stepped into it."
Mendenhall was a first-round pick and a premier back in the NFL when he wasn't fighting injuries. Most people expect "premier" runners to play until their wheels fall off. But by most standards, Mendenhall had a fine career, amassing over $13 million and winning a Super Bowl ring. What more could he, or we, ask for?
Photo via Getty
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