"What do you do with the rest of your life, when
you can no longer do what you were born to do?"
'95 St. Louis
'85-91 St. Louis/Phoenix
"This isn't like any other good-bye you'll ever
say. People who never played can't understand it. This isn't something you just
turn off. It's not like closing a door."
'98 Hall of Fame
'65-66 LA Rams
"I couldn't exist without football."
'88 Hall of Fame
"There was a time in my life when football
meant everything to me. But it had become an enabler. It was what enabled me to
get the drugs that I was living for."
Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson
'80 San Francisco/Houston
"My ego couldn't accept being just an average
player. The reality was clear to me - you aren't what you were. The game had
been so good to me. I had too much respect for it to just settle for collecting
a pay check from it."
"You have to have the right attitude about
retiring. I always thought it would be sad if those eight years were going to be
the high point of my life. It was just a chapter. You finished it and you went
on. It's like getting out of high school...you have some great memories and you
look back on it with a certain fondness, but you're hoping the best years of
your life are ahead of you."
'91 Green Bay
'86-90 St. Louis/Phoenix
"The worst thing that can happen to any play is that he gets hurt before he hits the point where he doesn't want to play anymore, and it will stay with him the rest of his life. He'll feel like he could have accomplished more, just like myself. You know, when I got hurt, that year, even to this day...when I'm praying to God if he would show me what could have happened that year. I swear to God I have not run across anything since I left that was tougher than that to deal with, I mean.... major. And that's why I really think that when you see a lot of guys leaving before they really want to leave-- it's easy to get into trouble."
Bubba Smith, DE-DT, 1967-1972 Baltimore, 1973-74 Oakland, 1975-76 Houston
"A football player is not only who you are, it is what you are. People who never played will undoubtedly never understand this."
Mark Duda, 1983-88, St. Louis
"As a ten year vet of the pre-59ers group, I just received and increase in my retirement. I now receive $100 per month for each year played. This exceeds the amount I received for a player's salary in 1955, not bad considering...lost teeth, two knee replacements, one shoulder arthroscoped, and a series of shots in my spine to try to reduce the swelling in the discs pressing against my sciatic nerve..if they don't help, then surgery will be needed. But, you know what? I would do it all over again, if I had the chance."
Mike Jarmoluk, DT-OT-DE-DG, 1946-47 Chicago Bears, 1948 Boston, 1949 New York, 1950-55 Philadelphia
"Before I knew it the game was over. I was retired and now my past has run away from me faster than any running back had ever done. If I could have recorded every waking moment only to know if I wanted to I could relive it all over again, but only without the pain. Life has been good, but also difficult. There will never be anything to equal the thrill of being there and although it's over, I thank God for letting me be a part of the team.
Walker Lee Ashley, Jr., LB, 1983-88 Minnesota, 1989 Kansas City, 1990 Minnesota.
"You start playing the game on the hard slippery asphalt in your neighborhood. Two-hand touch. That was the game. Sides are chosen. The fastest and the biggest would always win. I would be the last chosen. In high school- things change. You grow. You excel. And you win a scholarship to college. You continue to improve and finally the pros beckon. In your mind you can't believe that you have an opportunity to do something few people in the world get an opportunity to do. You ride the joyride for eleven years, and finally one day you wake up and realize the end is drawing near. Something you've been doing all of your life is gradually being pulled from you. Your skills you worked so hard to develop are slowly waning. This could be devastating. However, playing on a team that won a ring, and later being a part of a team that was building and would eventually win four Super Bowls, was really rewarding for me. Retirement was easy because of those opportunities, but I had prepared for three years for retirement. My last game was Franco Harris' immaculate reception. That was grand and I left with no regrets."
John Brown, 1961-66 Cleveland, 1966-72 Pittsburgh
"We're blessed with the opportunity to live our dreams and not many people get to do that. Problem is-- in the NFL, you don't do much to prepare for when you wake up from that dream. As we play, my feeling is, we have to prepare not to play."
Mike Quick 1982-1990 Philadelphia Eagles
He battled and fought and then fought some more, but then he stumbled and faltered. Listen. No roar. He crumbled in silence, alone and in tears. This day comes for all, just silence, no cheers. The game drifts away, but your life still goes on. You hear the same music, but it's not the same song.
Gerry Feehery, 1983-87 Philadelphia, 1988 Kansas City
The time to start worrying about what you are going to do after pro football is long before you even start the game. While you are in college-- study more than you study film. Get yourself a meaningful degree, because football is not a profession. A profession is something you can do all your life-- not just for a short period of time. As far as friends, my friends stayed the same. The guys I played ball with are no different than the people I work with now--- associates. Once the game is over, for the most part, the association ends. When you are on the bubble and it appears you may be cut, you are avoided like a bad case of AIDS. That's when you know who your friends are. My transition was not traumatic. Why? Because I kept my same friends before, during and after my career. I never got out of touch with my roots. My family was my life - not football. I never forgot that I was just plain me and not the "superstar" in a football uniform on a Sunday afternoon. In short, have a life other than football. Have friends other than football players and football player's wives. Get a job or go back to school in the off season. Forget all the charity stuff. Do something that enhances your future and the future of your family. My goal while I was a player was to make enough money to send all four of my kids to college without relying on an athletic scholarship. I achieved that goal and feel better about that than the championship ring I have-- but never wear.