Former Illinois pain-in-the-ass Rashard Mendenhall has retired from the NFL. He didn't hold a press conference because, in his words, he "didn't want to have to say things that were cliché."
Mendenhall wrote about his decision, which is both reasonable and poignant. For starters, he seems to have a refreshing lack of vanity:
The fact that I was done playing would've been clear once some time had passed...maybe people would've thought I couldn't get another job. Either way, I was okay with the idea of fading to black, and my legacy becoming "What ever happened to that dude Rashard Mendenhall?"
Second, he's accomplished everything he's wanted to professionally. At this point he's just building more of an NFL pension he may or may not need (Mendenhall made about $15MM in just salary since leaving Illinois in 2008). What's he missing?
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.
Save for the Super Bowls, most people don't get that in their entire careers let alone by age 26. Finally, it is clear that Mendenhall is a bit of a throwback where the business of sports entertainment is concerned:
When I came up, teammates fought together for wins and got respect for the fight. The player who gave the ball to the referee after a touchdown was commended; the one who played through injury was tough; the role of the blocking tight end was acknowledged; running backs who picked up blitzing linebackers showed heart; and the story of the game was told through the tape, and not the stats alone. That was my model of football.
Today, game-day cameras follow the most popular players on teams; games are analyzed and brought to fans without any use of coaches tape; practice non-participants are reported throughout the week for predicted fantasy value; and success and failure for skill players is measured solely in stats and fantasy points.
My older brother coaches football at the high-school and youth level. "These kids don't want to work hard. All they wanna do is look cool, celebrate after plays, and get more followers on Instagram!"
Mendenhall walks away from an NFL contract that would likely pay him $2-3MM this season. Literally, walks - which he'll appreciate a lot more after another 26 years.