According to multiple reports, Arizona Cardinals free-agent running back Rashard Mendenhall is set to retire at the age of 26. Mendenhall had recently hinted that this was, in fact, going to be the case. In a recent column that he wrote for the Huffington Post, stating, “As I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.”
Mendenhall was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008 as a first round pick. He rushed for 4,326 yards and scored 39 total touchdowns over his six seasons in the NFL. He won the Superbowl in 2008 when the Steelers knocked off the Cardinals 27-23. He was able to reach the Superbowl again in 2010, but the Steelers fell to the Green Bay Packers 31-25. Mendenhall rushed for 63 yards on 14 attempts and scored a touchdown in the game.
Mendenhall battled turf toe for a majority of the 2013 season and finished with 687 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He rushed for over 1,000 yards twice in his career. Once in 2009, in which he ran for 1,108, and then again in the following 2010 season when he ran for a career best 1,273.
There was a time in his career when he was one of the most dependable and versatile backs in the game. But after tearing his ACL two years ago, he just wasn’t quite the same and he didn’t want to go on not being able to play to his ability. He lacked the same explosiveness that he once had, and decided to hang it up even though there was some interest in Mendenhall from around the league. He most definitely could have found himself a job and collected a few more big pay checks, but apparently he wants to do something more with his life and is set on retiring.
Like most backs, his career was cut short by injuries. The average career of a running back is only 2.57 years. A simply jaw dropping stat that is both amazing and sad. When thinking of the amount of NFL players that have had their careers cut short and don’t know what to do with themselves for the remainder of their lives, retirement can be a scary process for some. But for Mendenahall, the end of his NFL career doesn’t mean the end of his life.
The former Illinois Fighting Illini has said in the past that he wants to write books and poetry and spend more time with his family among other things. There is a lot of life to be lived for the only 26-year-old Mendenhall. Most players don’t have the ability to retire on their own terms. They either hang on too long, or have an injury that won’t even allow them to get back on the field whether they wanted to or not. Mendenhall proved that he could make a comeback from his knee injury and has made peace with the fact that it is his time to move on from the game that he has played all his life and retire.
Commentary by Rich Peters